Thursday, April 24, 2008

PNC Settles with DataTreasury

By Mark Brousseau

DataTreasury announced this week that it had settled a patent infringement lawsuit brought against The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. and PNC Bank, two of 55 defendants in active litigation in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas.

DataTreasury had accused PNC of infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 5,910,988 and 6,032,137, which were issued to the Plano, Texas company in 1999 and 2000 for image capture, centralized processing and electronic storage of document and check information. DataTreasury also had accused PNC of infringing U.S. Patent Nos. 5,265,007 and 5,717,868, which were issued in 1993 and 1996 for a central check clearing system.

The litigation had been stayed while the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office reexamined the validity of DataTreasury’s ‘988 and ‘137 patents, and has recently resumed after the Patent Office confirmed the validity of the claims of those patents and granted DataTreasury additional claims. None of the defendants in this litigation have ever proved that any of the claims of these DataTreasury patents are invalid or unenforceable, DataTreasury notes.

PNC concluded that this settlement was in the best interest of its business.

Part of the settlement is documented in the form of a Consent Judgment filed in the Marshall division of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas. “It is comforting to my client that the banks are doing the right thing by licensing this patented technology,” said DataTreasury’s patent and licensing counsel, Rod Cooper of Texas-based Nix, Patterson & Roach, LLP.DataTreasury has granted PNC a worldwide license for its patents.

Terms of the agreement are confidential, but they include protections for PNC’s customers, giving the bank a competitive edge in check processing, DataTreasury claims. “It is clear that PNC understands the importance of DataTreasury’s patents, which help the bank realize the benefits afforded by the underlying technology,” continued Cooper. “PNC has shown respect for our patents, and has resolved a costly court battle,” said Claudio Ballard, founder and Chairman of DataTreasury and the inventor of the company’s patented technology.

Keith DeLucia, DataTreasury’s CEO added: “PNC is the second financial institution from the Financial Services Roundtable to license our patents despite the association’s efforts to lobby the Congress for infringement immunity from our patents."

"We are now preparing to take the remaining defendants to trial,” said DataTreasury’s lead trial counsel, Nelson Roach of Nix, Patterson & Roach, LLP.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sessions Backs Off Immunity Plan

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Interesting article from the Washington Post on the latest developments on a congressional proposal that would give banks immunity from the DataTreasury patent infringement lawsuit:

Immunity Plan for Banks Loses Backer
Billions of Dollars at Stake Over Patent

By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 12, 2008; D03

Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has withdrawn his support for legislation he had written that could save the nation's banks billions of dollars by granting them immunity from a lawsuit accusing them of infringing a check-processing patent.

Sessions's about-face reduces the odds that the measure, which has been advocated by banking interests, will become law this year.

Sessions announced his decision in a letter last week to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.). In the letter, he noted that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office said his amendment to a larger bill could affect more patented check technologies than originally thought and might undercut U.S. patent-protection efforts with trading partners.

"I wanted you to be aware of these developments," Sessions wrote to Leahy.

The Sessions amendment was adopted without dissent by the committee in July. It would prevent a small Texas company, DataTreasury, from collecting damages from banks for infringing on its patented method for digitally scanning, sending and archiving checks. The patents were upheld last summer by the Patent and Trademark Office after they were challenged.

Although the amendment would not invalidate DataTreasury's patents, it would spare the banks from having to pay for infringing them should the courts decide that was warranted. If DataTreasury collected a royalty of just a couple of cents per check, the amount would run into billions of dollars.

Under the amendment, the government would have to pay $1 billion to DataTreasury over 10 years as compensation for taking the company's property, according to estimates by the Congressional Budget Office.

The Sessions amendment is part of a patent-overhaul bill that stalled in the Senate this week. A senior committee aide said the outlook for the amendment is uncertain.

SunTrust Outsources Operations

Posted by Mark Brousseau

Interesting article on the front page of the business section of today's Atlanta Journal-Constitution regarding the bank's decision to outsource some of its operations to Symcor:

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 04/17/08

After nearly a year of studying the possibility of outsourcing some back-office jobs to a Canadian company, SunTrust Banks Inc. said Thursday it signed a 10-year deal that will reduce head count by 1,554 positions, or roughly 5 percent of its 32,323-member work force.

The deal with Symcor Inc., which is headquartered in the Toronto suburb of Mississauga, calls for it to handle check and payment processing as well as statement generation.

Starting Aug. 1, Symcor will take over those operations, and 1,500 of the affected employees will be transferred to its control.

The remaining 54 jobs will be eliminated, SunTrust spokesman Mike McCoy said. However, it's possible those losing their jobs will be offered jobs elsewhere within the financial institution.

The jobs affected are in Atlanta, Baltimore, Memphis, Miami, Orlando, Durham, N.C., and Richmond.

McCoy declined to give the specific number of jobs in each location that are transferring to Symcor, and the company did not characterize the nature of the 54 positions that will be eliminated.

The move is part of SunTrust's long-term strategy to cut costs to deploy money into growing the core banking business. That strategy, dubbed E2 for Excellence in Execution, is pegged to save SunTrust about $530 million by 2009. SunTrust said in May last year it was considering outsourcing those jobs.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Could Free Scanners Drive RDC?

By Mark Brousseau

Could free scanners hold the key to even wider remote deposit capture adoption? That’s what two new studies suggest.

A survey by Boston-based Aite Group found that 58 percent of small businesses that are not using remote deposit capture say free scanners from their banks would make their adoption of the technology more likely – topping any other implementation factor. Aite Group analyst Christine Barry notes that small businesses are more price-sensitive in general.

No kidding. Small businesses – those with less than $500,000 in revenue annually – expect scanners to cost about $100 or less, according to research from Celent LLC. Even larger businesses – those with at least $5 million in revenues – expect scanners to cost $210. These are numbers that will surely make the check scanner manufacturers gag.

Celent notes that only 15 percent of banks now offer clients free scanners, with half requiring them to buy the machines upfront, either from the bank or from a technology vendor. One-third of banks absorb scanner costs into the monthly fees for their remote capture service.

What do you think? Post your comments below.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Economy And Lockbox Demand

By Mark Brousseau

The recent economic volatility has got many people wondering whether lockbox providers are seeing a change in demand. To find out, I asked three lockbox industry veterans.

John Mintzer (, vice president at Citizens Bank, said interest in outsourced remittance processing continues to be steady even during the most recent economic volatility.

“Remittance processing is similar to the gaming industry in that the demand for remittance services doesn’t necessarily retrench or diminish during difficult economic times,” Mintzer explained. “However, the comparison stops there. While the client of the casino takes on more risk in the pursuit of wealth – capital – the remittance processing client is looking to reduce risk in the pursuit of protecting its capital.”

Customers with in-house lockboxes continue to evaluate whether it makes more sense to outsource, Mintzer told me. “There is significant appeal to outsourcing, because it simplifies the budgeting process by boiling the expense down to a per item basis. This eliminates the need to worry about changing labor costs, software and hardware upgrades, and the significant expense associated with business continuity.”

Steven Nugent (, director, product management, at First Data Corp. doesn’t believe that economic factors have influenced the market’s interest in outsourcing as much as the ever-increasing unit cost per item due to electronic migration. “Companies have historically measured the value proposition of an outsourced lockbox against internal pressure to achieve margin goals,” Nugent told me. “It would surprise me if most in-house processors weren’t contemplating outsourcing prior to the latest economic downturn.”

Ron Victor (, vice president, Receivables Product Management for JPMorgan Chase, said his bank is seeing a decline in B2B check volumes of approximately 4 percent in the first quarter. “In my opinion, the key factors are the economic downturn, remote capture adoption [which flows into a separate P&L at JPMC] and electronic payment adoption.”

Victor added that the economic downturn certainly places a greater focus on intra-day collaboration (exceptions repair, data augmentation, invoice matching), straight-through processing, and remote deposit capture. “One key thing we have found is that the on-line user experience and ease of browser use are important to customer satisfaction,” he said.

Nugent also sees a stronger focus among billers on working capital management. “Value-added services designed to decrease time-in-process, such as intra-day exceptions processing and remote payment capture, take center stage in almost every conversation we have,” Nugent said. “Many of the payments processed through these channels carry a disproportionately higher dollar average. Image cash letter has become a standard for accelerating the back end.”

Mintzer, who will be a panelist with Nugent and Victor at TAWPI’s Payments in Transition conference this month in Las Vegas, added that his bank’s existing remittance customers continue to focus on line item processing charges. Some wholesale lockbox customers, as an example, are evaluating whether they can transition to retail lockbox services to reduce per item costs. “In some cases, this can work,” Mintzer said. “But there are many factors that need to be considered, including the return rate of the remittance coupon and the ability of the customer to absorb the upfront programming charges,” he explained.

What are you seeing? Post your comments.

3 Key Trends In Remote Capture

By Mark Brousseau

Financial institutions have growth opportunities in implementing check imaging and remote deposit capture solutions as more customers request the services and, as the banks themselves, search out new opportunities for expansion. That’s according to Andy Lawrence, Worldwide Solutions Business Manager, Document Imaging, Graphic Communications Group, Eastman Kodak Company.

“Today’s challenging credit and mortgage environments are narrowing profit margins in both loan and deposit portfolios,” Lawrence told me. “Banks are looking to improve operational efficiency in dealing with the aforementioned and that is also fueling interest in check imaging and remote deposit capture.”

Lawrence said there are three significant trends occurring in the remote capture marketplace today.

First, small to medium-sized banks are increasingly signing up as clients to outsourced or hosted services for check imaging and remote deposit capture. There are many reasons for this, Lawrence noted; however, the prime reason has much to do with organizational philosophy. That necessitates answering a fundamental question: Does an organization have the scope within its resources to implement and maintain a remote deposit capture solution or does it want to concentrate resources on its core business, that of banking?

“Certainly, costs enter the picture in terms of affording dedicated IT resources and capital investments in hardware and software,” Lawrence noted. “So, too, business growth opportunities enter the decision process. We’re seeing small to medium sized banks use hosted services to expand their business without building and staffing new branches. Regardless if the system is in house or hosted, banks of all sizes have quickly realized that offering check imaging and remote deposit capture solutions to customers has enabled them to grow business cost effectively.”

Lawrence said Kodak also is beginning to see that small and medium size business are seeking to buy remote deposit capture solutions directly from vendors versus sourcing them exclusively through banks as was the case in the initial Check 21 push. While banks are anxious to reach beyond their own client base, the reality is that they are limited by the scale of their sales organization and ability to implement and service solutions, Lawrence explained. In fact, he claims bank adoption has been widespread but client adoption has been limited and is almost at a standstill.

“We realized that this would happen,” Lawrence said. “To prepare for it, Kodak has been expanding application knowledge and market presence for the last three years. In effect, Kodak is playing the role of matchmaker by driving awareness and leveraging our relationships with businesses to bring clients to banks with which we’ve partnered.”

The last trend Lawrence noted involves capture technology itself, and the disruption being caused in the market by businesses requesting to use document scanner platforms for remote deposit capture. “These businesses do not require MICR and want to optimize return on investment in document scanners through using one scanning platform for financial transactions and business documents,” Lawrence said. “Doing so can lead to equipment cost savings, reduced training requirements and streamlined process flow.”

Lawrence said that in the four years since Congress passed the Check Clearing Act for the 21st Century Act enabling check scanning and remote deposit capture, the industry has moved from early adopters of the technology marketing the service to a few major customers to growing acceptance by all sizes of banks and customers.

Trends in hosted services, businesses purchasing remote deposit capture solutions directly from vendors and the ability to scan checks via document scanners will only accelerate the interest and pace of adoption in the market for Check 21 solutions, he predicted.

What do you think? E-mail me at

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Managing Lockbox Relationships

By Mark Brousseau

Developing a strong working relationship with your lockbox provider is critical to the success of any payments outsourcing initiative, says Craig Bjork (, director, account & business development, Data Capture Services, at CDS Global.

As a first step, Bjork recommends that billers make sure that their business rules are well documented and clearly understood by their lockbox provider. To be sure everyone is on the same page, ask the lockbox provider to share a copy with you. Review these business rules with your provider to understand why things are done a particular way, and what benefits they provide. If you hear, “I’m not sure,” or “We’ve always done things this way,” you’ve probably found a process that needs changing. “But don’t concern yourself too much with how the work gets done,” Bjork warns. “It is the results that you should worry about.”

Similarly, billers should make sure that their contract or service agreement is specific, and that they understand all of the billing points and how volumes are derived, Bjork explained.

In addition, whenever billers change their forms or remittance documents, they should give their lockbox provider an opportunity to adequately review and test them, Bjork said. “And listen to your lockbox provider’s comments and recommendations,” he said. “Documents that create issues in lockbox processing can also create exceptions and posting delays.”

Bjork noted that lockbox providers may want ‘perfect world’ scenarios, but this might not work for the biller. “Work with your lockbox provider to find the best solution for both parties,” Bjork said. “Everyone’s goal should be the same: timely and accurate processing.”

Bjork also recommends that billers visit their lockbox provider’s facility, to build personal relationships with the people servicing their accounts, and to see firsthand how their work will be processed. And know the chain of command for your provider. You also want to get at least two alternate contacts so you have options if your primary contact is unavailable.

Any strategies you would like to share? E-mail me at