Janet Bridges, director of treasury at Atlanta-based restaurant chain Chick-fil-A, is about to become a pioneer in one of the last frontiers in cash management automation–the mundane world of coins and bills. Sitting in back offices at two of her company's restaurants are two small, innocuously plain safes, except for the currency-counting equipment on top. While today they may in fact be ordinary safes, within weeks they will become official bank vaults provided by Bank of America. Called BofA recyclers, money being deposited into the vaults goes automatically and immediately into Chick-fil-A's account at the bank, credited as a deposit–just as if someone had counted, strapped, rolled and bagged it all and hauled it to a bank branch for deposit.

"We were looking into an armored carrier service to get cash to the bank when our BofA account rep told us about this opportunity. We quickly signed up to be the initial pilot customer," Bridges says. "We liked the way several services are packaged, and we liked being involved early, so we could influence the way the product is shaped."
Until recently, there has been no slick way to handle bills and coins, and consequently cash management that involved hard currency was costly and inefficient–for both the bank and the customer. The real challenge: how to get the cash working as fast as possible.

In past years, banks like JPMorgan Chase and KeyBank have teamed up with courier services to construct a string of off-site virtual vaults, owned by the bank or courier, that serve as a kind of weigh station between store and bank. Customers get credit for the deposit and do not have to make the trip to the bank. It is not surprising that the next progression would be to move the vault on-site.

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