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Wells Fargo Decides It Is Better To Share Than to Exchange

Bank signals a shift away from image exchange to image sharing as it joins Viewpointe.

Wells Fargo has taken an ownership position in Charlotte-based Viewpointe and signed a long-term agreement to use Viewpointe's national check image archive. The move likely will accelerate industry adoption of image share, according to industry experts. As a result of the deal, San Francisco-based Wells Fargo ($422 billion in assets) will utilize Viewpointe's check image exchange services, ImageShare, to store, retrieve and share images on demand with other banking members of the Viewpointe network.

With growing industry interest in image sharing, rather than the transfer of check images among individual banks, Wells Fargo decided now was the time to invest in Viewpointe, according to Mitch Christensen, EVP, payment strategies, Wells Fargo. "We think now Viewpointe is positioned with its archive and new owners and customers to be an industry trendsetter with regard to image sharing," he says.

Wells Fargo joins JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America, US Bancorporation, SunTrust Bank and IBM as owners of Viewpointe. With such industry heavyweights supporting the venture, the partnership will influence other financial institutions to accept the archiving and sharing of check images as a strategy for dealing with electronic check processing, according to Richard Winston, a Dallas-based partner in Accenture's financial services practice. "It is going to pressure some of the other large top 20 that aren't on a share platform and that don't have a definitive exchange strategy that are taking a wait-and-see approach to recognize that they can be a part of the large share volume," Winston says.

All's Well for Wells Fargo

Wells Fargo's entry into the Viewpointe alliance will also benefit the bank's check processing services, says Wells Fargo's Christensen. "It was an opportunity to be more efficient in how we progress from check to electronic payments," he says. "The goal has always been to move on to image exchange and to image sharing. With the size and ownership that [Viewpointe has], we have the opportunity to get to that image on demand more quickly." Prior to the agreement, Wells Fargo relied on its own archive; it now is in the process of migrating that archive to Viewpointe, according to Christensen.

Wells Fargo's participation will increase the number of check images stored in the Viewpointe national archive to more than 25 billion a year, according to John Lettko, chairman and CEO, Viewpointe. "Wells Fargo is a very strong transaction institution," he says. "They bring significant volume - being in the West and in the forefront of image capture. It's the additional volume in that particular geography that increases the volume of sharing. It moves everyone so much faster to electronic exchange."

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