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8/27/2004
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Banks Gear Up For Check-Imaging Era

Viewpointe Archive Services, a joint venture among four banks, is getting ready to enable banks to exchange images of checks instead of paper.

Two months before the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, known as Check 21, takes effect, Viewpointe Archive Services, a joint venture of Bank of America, J.P. Morgan Chase, SunTrust Banks, and U.S. Bancorp is gearing up to enable banks to exchange images of checks instead of paper. Founded four years ago, Viewpointe stores more than 30 billion check images and is adding more than 60 million to its archive each day.

Viewpointe plans to bring all of its 10 financial-institution customers online to utilize its image-sharing capabilities to clear checks and to have them up and running on image sharing by the middle of next year. Viewpointe will roll out image exchange to non-customer banks as they come up to speed technologically. The 10 banks are Bank of America, First Tennessee National Bank, HSBC, J.P. Morgan Chase, SunTrust, U.S. Bancorp, Zions Bancorp, FleetBoston Financial (now owned by Bank of America) BB&T, and National City. Fiserv Inc., which handles check processing for a number of smaller banks, will also use the service. The banks process close to half of the 40 billion checks written in the United States annually.

The banks have agreed to some 30 standards for check clearing and processing via image sharing, including image-quality level and definitions of when presentment is legally to have occurred.

Viewpointe's banks are all running at or close to 100% prime pass, meaning that virtually all checks are imaged as they're run through check sorters. Images generally are captured within 24 hours after a paper check has been deposited at the bank; all other transactions are performed against the image, while the paper check itself is sent on to the bank upon which it's drawn. After Oct. 28, when Check 21 takes effect, the paper check can be destroyed, with the image serving as its legal equivalent.

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