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The Changing Check Education Landscape

August 17, 2010

The events of 9/11 on the financial industry continue to be felt today, and have caused a much greater shift in bank operations than anyone anticipated.  What was a tightly controlled operation with around 12,000 end points has blossomed into a loosely controlled environment with over 100,000,000 potential points of entry.  Where once the equipment to process checks was technologically advanced and finely tuned to obtain maximum efficiency, we now have a host of different capture devices with varying features, including your personal cell phone.  Even the Financial Institution’s decision process has been significantly altered.  Previously, the Executive in charge of Operations had the final decision authority on equipment purchases, and their success was frequently tied to the performance of that equipment.  Today, with equipment typically being deployed in branches, it is frequently at least a joint decision with Operations Executive and the Retail Executive, with the tellers having significant input.  In many cases, the final decision is passed to the Procurement Department for final selection.

For the companies that provide products and services to these institutions, these changes have been dramatic and have changed the number of companies in the market as well as the overall marketing strategies for those companies.  The average consumer, however, is much less aware of these changes, and the impact it has had and will continue to have on them.  The technology-averse customer is aware that it has become almost impossible to get their original checks back and has had to adjust to paying for IRDs or image statements if they wish to keep copies of their checks.  The traditional customer that still writes checks for groceries and other purchases wonders why the store can accept a totally blank check for payment, but requires them to sign a separate piece of paper regarding the check.  The tech savvy customer is shopping around for an institution that will allow them to deposit their checks via their cell phone.  And then there is the person that walked  up to me at a trade show recently that wanted a simple explanation of what Check 21 was going to mean to his institution!

Processes and their associated costs have changed significantly over the past five years.  In this era of increasing regulatory control, we have a responsibility to increase customer awareness of these changes and how it impacts the average consumer, or face potential restrictive controls that will constrain the industry from continued innovation.

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