U.S. bankers may be just rolling out their product lines for Check 21′s check-imaging offspring, remote deposit. But there's at least one CEO in Mexico City who is already sold on it. In early December, Eduardo Garcia Lecuona's company, Intercam Casa de Cambio, was enlisted by Wachovia Bank to be the guinea pig for its new remote deposit product, called Remote Desktop Capture–and not by accident, either. Intercam buys dollar-denominated check payments that U.S. businesses and consumers use to pay Mexican companies and then pays the check recipients in pesos. The success of its business model depends on Lecuona's ability to clear the checks in the U.S as fast as possible. "Until now, we had to physically consolidate all those checks in Mexico City and then fly boxes of them to Wachovia's processing center in Florida," Lecuona explains. "That took four days, which we can now cut to about two. The transmission itself takes less than five minutes."

Intercam initially went live in only one of its processing centers. But Lecuona expects that the company will be digitizing and transmitting all its U.S. checks to Wachovia by the end of the first quarter of 2005, once it completes training and gets comfortable with the new process. From the start, however, Lecuona reports that remote deposit is translating into a big gain in cash flow. Besides speeding up the clearing process, "we [also] avoid all those courier and air transport charges. And some checks inevitably got lost in transit, which should not happen any more," he says. "We're enthusiastic about the new service. So far, it has worked perfectly."

Remote deposit is still relatively new–at yearend 2004, most banks found themselves scrambling to test remote-deposit offerings, reports Cathy Gregg, a Chicago-based partner in Treasury Strategies Inc. But early returns on the pilots available seem to indicate that this may be one new service that banks will not have to bend over backwards to sell. "The economics are different" from earlier electronification efforts, such as ARC, Gregg observes. "Very few companies were making remote deposits under ARC except through retail lockbox operations," she reports. But she suspects the same companies that passed on ARC might consider remote deposit.

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