Technology has enabled a host of remote financial services. But one area that has not gained much traction is remote check capture for small-business and retail banking customers. A new offering from Mitek Systems, however, aims to change this. The San Diego-based vendor's ImageNet Mobile Deposit software captures check images using the increasingly powerful cameras built into many mobile phones, enabling check deposits and bill payments.
"All the platforms for mobile banking are good, but there's a lack of the ability to deposit checks," says Mitek CEO James DeBello. "We look at mobile phones as mobile scanning devices."
According to DeBello, users initiate secure sessions with their banks using PINs. After selecting the option to make a deposit or pay a bill, the user enters the amount of the payment and snaps pictures of the front and back of the check. Feedback regarding image quality is provided immediately, DeBello says; if the check looks good, the user simply clicks "submit."
"We install software [at the bank] to process the image and optimize it for X9.37 quality standards for the remote deposit capture [RDC] world," DeBello explains. "Before the check is submitted, the software extracts key pieces of information, such as the MICR line, the legal amount information and the signature information. Once the bank receives the image and processes the transaction, a text message is sent to the user to verify completion of the transaction."
DeBello says ImageNet integrates with existing mobile wallet platforms, adding that Mitek has partnered with vendors offering dedicated mobile banking products and plans to expand such alliances.
According to Bob Meara, senior analyst with Boston-based Celent, ImageNet is a logical extension of mobile phone functionality. "[Remote capture] isn't rocket science anymore," he says. "What Mitek did was couple its interface for image quality with existing hardware, utilizing the existing security infrastructure. Plus, it's a service banks can subscribe to that performs the image corrections for them. From an operational standpoint, what's not to like?"
Meara notes, however, that the user friendliness of the interface will go a long way in determining ImageNet's adoption. "There are other methods for [consumer] remote capture available, but they're pretty clunky," he comments.
Whether Mitek's technology will displace existing channels, such as ATMs, for depositing checks, however, is unlikely, contends Brian Bailey, VP, financial industry marketing, for ATM maker NCR (Dayton, Ohio). "Consumers are demanding multiple channels for interacting and performing secure transactions," Bailey relates. "ATM, Internet and mobile technologies are all capable of providing consistent and complementary transactions and experiences for consumers."
Noting that image-enabled ATMs are pricey, Celent's Meara says there definitely is a niche for mobile phone RDC. But, he adds, "I don't think this technology is a great threat to image-enabled ATMs. If you have a bunch of checks, you'll still either go to an image ATM or a branch. These self-service channels don't replace existing channels -- they're just offering customers another choice."
Still, in aggregate, Meara says, self-service remote imaging technology could force a reinvention of the branch experience. "Once that traffic goes away, you're going to have to look at new branch layouts and new training for tellers," he explains.