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03:06 PM
Maura Ammenheuser
Maura Ammenheuser
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First Tennessee is the first non-partner financial institution to use Viewpointe's archive and retrieval service for check images.

First Tennessee Bank has signed a seven-year contract with Viewpointe Archive Services, an archive and retrieval service for check images operated by J.P. Morgan Chase, Bank of America and IBM.

Beginning in September, First Tennessee customers will be able to view checks online within 24 hours after clearing. Customers without Internet access can have bank tellers pull up check images immediately, instead of having to wait several days to receive copies.

First Tennessee is the first bank to use Viewpointe besides Chase and BofA. It committed because "it's less expensive for us to outsource storage and retrieval," said Taylor Vaughan, senior vice president and manager of cash management services at $18.6 billion First Tennessee.

The bank already had working relationships with IBM and Check Solutions, and it also likes Viewpointe's disaster recovery plan.

First Tennessee has offered image-based statements for five years; only 10% of account holders get paper checks with statements today. But the deal with Viewpointe will help it enhance its services, Vaughan said.

First Tennessee will capture check images and send them to Viewpointe via a high-speed IBM telecommunications connection. Viewpointe will digitally store and retrieve the images using technology from IBM and its Check Solutions subsidiary. The bank is acquiring more image-enabled check sorters, Vaughan added, and is building new interfaces to the archive.

Viewpointe offers several back-end options, said Bob Stafford, sales and marketing executive at the service. When a bank requests an image from the archives, Viewpointe can make it accessible via browser, CD-ROM or other media, and produce image-enhanced statements for the banks or provide only the images. First Tennessee initially will deal only with raw images, Vaughan said.

Imaging offers industry-wide savings. Statements mailed without paper checks save postage. And capturing an image once and storing it in a communal archive saves processing costs because member banks don't have to recapture the image for statements or other uses. Today each check routed through the U.S. banking system costs about 4 cents, Stafford said, estimating that Viewpointe can cut that by 30%.

Viewpointe maintains two archives, in Boulder, Colo. and Dallas. Each archive makes backup copies of images stored by the other. If either goes down, the system switches to the other. Viewpointe's technology is expandable to up to five or six archives, Stafford said. According to the company's Web site, the service is capable of holding the entire volume of U.S. check images. Viewpointe's founding banks alone process 12.5 billion annually.

Although its initial focus is the financial industry, Viewpointe expects to eventually serve other industries, Stafford said. "Documents are documents and images are images."

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