Imaging service, put it in the bank

Imaging service, put it in the bank

By Mark Chillingworth

When you walk into a bank branch today, you are not just offered banking services. Banks want to offer you every conceivable type of insurance, help you buy your house and even retire. Diversification has been a part of banking for the last decade, but now the services that make the banking wheels turn are being "diversified" to any business that wants to hire them. At the unveiling of its new imaging centre in New South Wales, Commonwealth Bank of Australia was keen to show off its new technology and to offer its imaging services.

Ron Logan, general manager for retail operations of the Commonwealth Bank made no bones about their ability to scan and store other businesses records, and the desire to do so.

"A project like this is not something that a bank takes on lightly. We are already doing speeding fines in Western Australia and we are looking to share this facility and put more through it," he said.

The new centre in New South Wales is the largest in a ring of Commonwealth imaging centres around the nation, with one in every capital, including a branch office in Darwin. Several million dollars per year will be saved by the new centre, which cost the Commonwealth a $20 million investment to create. As the largest centre, the Lidcombe operation works around the clock, with the night shift being the busiest. In the move from the centre of Sydney to the new operation in an old warehouse, the Commonwealth only lost three members of staff and Mr Logan claims the staff are happier at the new base.

Dead Trees

As part of the move to digital archiving, Mr Logan said captured images will be archived for seven years, the same time span that paper archives are kept. For legal reasons the paper documents will still be retained, but you cannot help feeling that the Commonwealth would rather retain the electronic versions and rid themselves of paper, or dead trees, as Mr Logan refers to them. "Seven years is a long time to store dead trees, but we have to keep that paper. The big difference is that we will also be keeping the electronic copies for seven years."

It"s not just the building which is new to the Commonwealth. In setting up the centre, the bank made a significant investment in new technology and partnered with NCR, EDS and Candle. NCR provided the imaging technology with its ImageMark system, which replaced the existing IBM imaging technology the bank was using. Mike Collins, manager of the Lidcombe operation explained that seven NCR scanners replaced 70 proofing machines previously used and equal the old technology in through-put. "We have the ability to put through more," he said.

Browser cheque checking

The greatest advantage to the bank of using the new system is the browser based application for checking the cheques and the data collected from them. Once scanned, the Commonwealth can distribute an image of the cheque to call centres of Commonwealth branches. Mr Collins claims the images are archived within 20 minutes of the bank scanning them. Within the browser application WeBview, developed by NCR, end users can see where the original cheque is archived, should it need to be retrieved. EDS, which has a 10 year IT services contract with the Commonwealth, built the consolidation server.

Commonwealth Bank claims the new centre will capture and store 1.5 million items a day, and reduces the archiving process from six days to one. Browser access to cheques, they hope, will improve customer service and the speed in which customer questions are replied in. They claim this is Australia"s largest archiving capacity, with capacity over the next seven years expected to reach 2.5 billion images. End users in the Commonwealth national chain will be able to access any cheque image via the intranet.

At the launch of the centre, despite the decline of cheque payments, the Commonwealth indicated that the rise of online banking and the expected efficiencies has driven the need for the centre. "Web enabled customer service and workflow is the way of the future. It delivers efficiencies across a range of complex functions, at the same time enhancing our services to our customers," Mr Logan said. He added that although cheque payment was decreasing, the bank needed greater and greater access to them. "More and more copies of cheques are needed, because of matrimonial or business legal cases. More and more retrieval is required of us," he said.

Completing the nation wide seven month roll out was the largest project under taken by NCR in the southern hemisphere. The project began in Sydney with the new centre and reached the chequered flag in Darwin on time. Each facility in Adelaide, Brisbane, Darwin, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney received the new NCR solution, in two phases: first the ImageMark and WeBview solutions were installed, whilst phase two saw the consolidation servers installed to connect the imaging data to the Commonwealth core banking system. This will allow the Commonwealth to supply electronic exchange data to other banks in Australia.

As this issue of Image & Data Manager shows, the imaging bureaux market is alive and well and the Commonwealth could pose a serious threat to the large incumbents of the market such as HPA and even prevent the smaller fish from growing into bigger fish. Out on the streets, the banks have been very successful at diversifying themselves into other markets such as insurance and portfolio management. Can a bank clean up on the imaging market? Only time will tell.

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