Workstation Boosts Cash Management Capability

Article excerpt

With the increasing popularity of computer workstations and the availability of software for these platforms, many banks are finding that they can offer electronic cash management services cost effectively for the first time.

One such bank is First Citizens Bank & Trust Co., Raleigh, N.C. FCB is a $3.7 billion-assets institution that operates the largest branch network in the state, with 305 offices in 159 towns and cities.

Until recently, FCB manually provided balance reporting services to customers at each of these branches. "Either the customers called in, or we arranged to call them on a set schedule, " says George Markle, vice-president and manager of cash management. Deposit reporting was also offered at each branch, using the services of a service bureau.

The bank recognized the inefficiency of this approach as both demand for the service and competition grew. Typically, banks begin a service such as balance reporting with a labor-intensive manual approach," says Markle, "then go to a third-party vendor for support as demands increase. Only when billings get large enough do they consider going in-house.

"With our competition offering a variety of cash management services that we did not have, we wanted to offer our own internal electronic delivery network to face the competition head on. " Cash crunch. Cost was the primary reason for bypassing service bureaus as suppliers of such services as balance reporting, money transfers, and stop payments. The possibility of developing a system internally was similarly rejected because of the high costs of writing and maintaining a mainframe program.

"Besides," adds Markle, "with fully functional products available from vendors, why should we reinvent the wheel?"

FCB limited its search to workstation-based vendor systems because it felt that a stand-alone workstation, unlike a mainframe, is easier to install and upgrade (the bank declined to discuss the cost of the system). In June of 1989, it chose a system called ACCESS from DISC Inc., a Baltimore-based NYNEX subsidiary. (ACCESS stands for automated cash control and electronic statement system.) The modular system allows a bank to bring all of its wholesale electronic delivery service offerings in-house.

DISC has modified the system to be fully operational on the new IBM RISC System 6000 now that the IBM/RT is no longer being offered. FCB is using ACCESS on one free-standing workstation to serve its entire operations.

The system's modules cover various wholesale electronic delivery services including money transfer, automated clearinghouse transactions, and correspondent balances. A customer interface converts the customer's personal computer into a cash management workstation.

The workstation approach makes it easier for FCB to link the system with other nonmainframe systems, such as wire transfer and stop-payment. "With control over electronic delivery through a workstation we now have the flexibility to essentially create our own distributed electronic delivery network," says Markle. Modules help. The bank's network, called First Citizens' DataNet, serves as the hub for FCB's electronic cash management delivery services. All we have to do is add modules as market demands dictate," says Markle. He notes, too, that customers can add services when they want to, once they are authorized for entry into the system.

Users can also take advantage of the system's reporting flexibility. Every module allows customers to design their own reports or have FCB do it for them. In addition, inquiries can be pinpointed by a number of parameters, including account, check number, or date range. …