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For MetLife, Commerce Bank Processes More Than Just Checks

Commerce Bank creates digital images of "everything that comes in the envelope, including the envelope," sending the information directly into MetLife's archive for its small business customers.

MetLife has selected Commerce Bank, a $13 billion bank based in Kansas City, Mo., to provide lockbox remittance processing, imaging, and payments services for MetLife's Small Business Center.

Commerce Bank's central U.S. location did help to win the deal, since many documents still come in via the postal service. But technology also played an important role. "Technology is the great equalizer," said Andrew Kaplan, senior vice president of product development and product management at Commerce. "Because the cost of technology has dropped, it has allowed us to do things with technology that primarily had been the purview of bigger banks."

MetLife underwrites group policies for small businesses, which are entities that frequently add and drop employees from insurance coverage. As such, MetLife needed a lockbox provider that could do more than simply take insurance premium checks out of their envelopes. Policy additions and deletions add an extra layer of complexity to lockbox processing, since that type of information "doesn't fit in the printed OCR line," said Kaplan.

Commerce Bank creates digital images of "everything that comes in the envelope, including the envelope," said Kaplan. "We image all of the documents on a same-day basis, and then transmit it back to their archive and their proprietary workflow, so their people are just processing off documents and not having to deal with any of the paper processing."

By doing so, Commerce Bank has taken a sizable burden away from the insurance company. "What we're really talking about in the imaging world today is outsourcing and archival strategies for our commercial customers, in both their financial documents and their non-financial documents," said Kaplan. "Our job at the commercial bank is to understand our customers' workflow and to integrate not only the financial perspective, but also to start thinking about all of the associated documents that they have to deal with."

To provide this capability, Commerce Bank uses high-speed scanners from Imaging Business Machines LLC, based in Birmingham, Ala., that can handle checks, 8.5 x 14-inch documents, and just about anything in between. With 140 employees, Commerce Bank has the flexibility to act as specialists in handling paper, at least while it's still around.

So despite declining check volumes, Commerce Bank handles greater document volumes than ever before. That situation should last as long as companies still communicate with their customers using paper. "Everybody's going to try to figure out a way to electronify the paper process," said Kaplan. "Until that time, they don't want to deal with it."

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