Commonwealth Bank 'cheques' its image

The Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has thrown $20 million behind a computerised imaging system to automate its cheque and voucher processing, a move believed to be a first in the local retail banking sector.

In February, CBA (which claims to be the largest cheque processor in Australia, which processes 450 million cheques a year), implemented NCR's ImageMark system to cut labour-intensive processing tasks like manual sorting and data entry. The system uses NCR 7780 cheque processors.

Specifically, the system -- a software and hardware package -- archives digital data on cheques for instant retrieval via a Web browser, allowing the images of presented cheques to be viewed remotely by staff or customers, CBA officials said.

The system takes images of the front and back of vouchers, then distributes the images to CBA branches and call centres, and to business and consumer customers online for tax or reconciliation purposes, CBA senior executive of operations centres, Graeme Towers said. "NCR's imaging code and reader technology will eventually allow the user to read the dollar-value and legals of a cheque," he added.

The deployment allowed CBA to dispose of old, manual processing equipment nearing the end of its life-cycle, thereby relieving the bank of significant maintenance costs, Towers said.

In his view, the main business benefits the system has delivered lie in quicker access to transaction information, less complex account reconciliation, simplified processing, and speedier customer support.

The system has also transformed the workstyle of CBA's cheque-proofing staff from that of a factory environment to an office environment, providing faster, quieter and cleaner cheque processing, Towers said. The CBA is reportedly the first large Australian bank to develop a centralised national archive of cheque images.

Towers, who expects pay back from the system within a year, said it was piloted in a CBA call centre in Sydney last week.

EDS Australia will work with NCR to provide the technology platform, managing all IT aspects of the upgrade.

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