While same-day settlement is revving up in the pits, most interested treasury staffs are still shuffling on the sidelines. One of the two big automated clearinghouse (ACH) electronic clearing networks, the one operated by the Atlanta Fed, introduced limited same-day settlement in August. True same-day ACH could expedite funds concentration, reduce float, help companies spot returns sooner and allow them to cut wire costs, but that remains a distant possibility for most companies.

Yet the progress is real. The product is up and running, and it's easy to use. Originating banks send the Fed a standard ACH payment file by the 2 p.m. ET transmittal deadline, explains Steven Cordray, project manager at the Fed.

The Fed separates out the kinds of payment eligible for same-day settlement: consumer check conversions and telephone and Internet payments. If the receiving bank has opted in, those payments are cleared and settled that same day at 5 p.m. ET. Otherwise, they go in the queue for standard overnight batch processing. "The originator doesn't have to do anything to modify the file," Cordray notes.

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