March 29, 2005

Wells Fargo (San Francisco, $428 billion in assets) has launched Desktop Deposit, a Web-client version of remote deposit capture.

Remote deposit capture services take advantage of the recent Check 21 legislation that permits banks to clear checks using digital replacements of the original paper documents. Several banks have announced or launched services to allow commercial customers of all sizes to avoid having to make a special trip to the bank branch just to deposit their checks. Instead, the checks are scanned at the customer's premises, with the image then sent to the bank and processed for collection.

A notable feature of the Wells Fargo announcement is that the Desktop Deposit service does not require a software interface at the customer site. Customers will be issued a scanner from solutions provider Panini (Dayton, Ohio), which plugs into the Universal Serial Bus (USB) port on a PC. From there, the user need only download the appropriate device drivers from Wells Fargo's Commercial Electronic Office portal to begin making remote deposits. "All of the software is going to be resident at the bank," says Danny Peltz, executive vice president of wholesale Internet and treasury solutions, Wells Fargo. "All of the workflow associated with those deposits occurs on the bank's servers."

This approach will reduce commercial customers' reliance upon internal IT support, claims Peltz. While customers will still need a PC, there's no need to install or manage software, other than the aforementioned drivers. "You don't have to have software loaded specifically to perform the operations, which allows you to centrally manage all of the administration tasks," says Peltz. "You have a central place to get all of your information, as opposed to having it resident on each one of the different PCs."

Peltz compares remote check capture to online banking, another technology that had been offered at one time using a PC software-based model before migrating to the Internet. When Wells Fargo had offered PC banking using a software-driven model, it garnered about 8,500 customers over nine years. Since launching the Internet-based Commercial Electronic Office in late 2000, the bank has brought 25,000 customers online, comprising almost 70 percent of its commercial customer base, according to Peltz.

Semitropic Water Storage District (Wasco, Calif.), a pilot customer of the Desktop Deposit service, has been able to eliminate the need for a full-time employee to travel to the closest Wells Fargo branch. "I was losing about 10 hours of staff time every two weeks because of the time required for our employees to physically take checks to the bank for deposit," stated Drew Hamilton, controller, Semitropic.

In addition, customers from outside of Wells Fargo's time zone can realize the benefit of a later deposit deadline. This competitive element has the potential to initiate an East Coast-West Coast rivalry. "As we start rolling this out nationwide, our deposit deadlines will be 7 p.m. Pacific time, which obviously is later than what the East Coast banks will be able to provide," says Peltz. "Changing that is not a trivial task."

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