David Walker: Driving Consensus
ECCHO's David Walker brought together sometimes-antagonists in order to win the passage of the pivotal Check 21 Act. But he didn't do it alone.
Sometimes innovation is the proverbial bolt-of-lightning inspiration that strikes one fervent individual. But sometimes innovation is both evolutionary and collaborative. Such was the case with the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, or Check 21, which was signed into law in 2003. But while the law (which allows banks to truncate paper checks and replace them with substitute digital check images) went into effect in 2004, it was decades in the making. Among the individuals who were committed to overcoming the barriers that had stalled industrywide adoption of check truncation, one of the most persistent and persuasive was David Walker, president and CEO of Dallas-based Electronic Check Clearing House Organization.
ECCHO had worked with the Federal Reserve Bank for years to find ways to make the checking system more efficient, recalls Walker, who joined the check clearinghouse in 1989. And late in 2001 the Fed proposed the Check 21 bill. "For the first and only time in their history, they developed and proposed a new statute for Congress to consider," Walker relates.
But initially there was little response. "That's when ECCHO got heavily involved," Walker says. "It was a bill the industry had interest in, but it wouldn't go anywhere without someone shepherding the process." What followed was a successful effort to bring together interests that usually were in opposition -- big banks, community banks, credit unions and other banking industry constituencies.
Despite his pivotal role, Walker gives credit to several other individuals who played a role in changing the way checks are processed. "Roger Ferguson, [who was] vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, was very interested in check truncation and was looking for a way to push it forward," he says. "Louise Roseman, his chief of staff, shepherded the whole process." And Fred Herr, an SVP with the Atlanta Fed, was the main force behind the Fed's "decision that they were going to serve as the bridge to the industry to help this transition," Walker adds.