When Union Planters was looking at incorporating image technology into its return item operation last year, its goal could be summed up in two words: cost containment. Today, nine months after going live with a new image-based returns system, the $34.2 billion bank has achieved that goal, and then some.
"Much of our satisfaction with the new system is that we have reduced our six processing centers to three," said Regina Folden, assistant vice president at Memphis, Tenn.-based Union Planters. "Our plan is to have only one center located in Memphis, and we hope to close the other two centers within a year."
There has been a substantial reduction in costs by consolidating the processing of returns and having employees complete their work earlier each day-with a reduction in staff. "At the Memphis center, we have eight employees handling this process," Folden said. "For the month of July, these employees processed 97,000 items on the new system."
In early 2000, the bank began a study of the way it was handling inbound returns from its six centers. The home-grown system that had been used for the past 18 years was long due for an overhaul because it was out of capacity, with no room for the growth Union Planters was experiencing. Furthermore, the staff's tasks were becoming more labor intensive, with longer hours required each day to complete the daily workload.
After making a decision to buy a new system rather than build it, Union Planters evaluated a number of software and hardware vendors. Union Planters selected Memphis-based Check Solutions based upon its ability to satisfy the bank's extensive list of requirements. For example, the new system had to be loaded with operational efficiencies and features, yet be accurate and employee-friendly.
Yet another requirement was that it fit in with the corporate plan of centralizing many of the operations performed by Union Planters' subsidiaries. This meant the system had to include a standard backroom procedure that centralized inbound return items processing at the Memphis operations center. Finally, the new system had to be compatible with Unisys hardware.
Check Solutions' CS Inbound Returns/Express streamlines return item operations, resulting in reduced costs, enhanced service, higher revenues, and improved risk management. CS Inbound Returns/Express was installed at Union Planters in August 2000, tested that fall, and put into production in December.
The new system permits an employee to search databases of returned items and images and send this information to other bank personnel or customers. "Now, anyone at one of the banks can pull up a check and make a printed copy of it," said Folden. "Before we acquired this new system, it took us almost a week for the customer to have a copy of an item."