Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Same-day ACH suffering from “chicken and the egg” syndrome?

By Mark Brousseau

With remote deposit capture continuing to enjoy strong growth, some attendees at this week’s NACHA Payments conference in Austin, Texas, were left wondering what has become of same-day Automated Clearing House (ACH) transactions – the hottest (and arguably most controversial) topic at NACHA Payments a few years back. The answer may be sobering for those who thought same-day ACH would be a clearly more appealing alternative to the same-day availability afforded by remote capture.

“The lack of same-day availability has always been a weakness of ACH,” notes Affirmative Technologies Chief Technology Officer George Bassous.

“Same-day ACH should be a magic bullet when it comes to turning back the rising volume of deposits made via Check 21 remote capture,” he says. “After all, Check 21 remote capture is a case of moving forward by taking two steps back: in order to get same-day availability, it requires the biller to continue dealing with checks.”

Bassous says there are a lot of advantages to same-day ACH. Chief among them, he said, is the ability to know much sooner whether a transaction is being returned. “Virtually any biller would be very interested in same-day ACH,” Bassous claimed.

So why hasn’t same-day ACH had better traction, much less driven back the growth of Check 21 remote capture transactions? “The issue is that the systems used by the ACH banks – particularly large ones – are so tied into old technology that when something new like same-day ACH comes along, they can’t do anything about it. This is the same issue that Secure Vault Payments is having. The situation with same-day ACH is a classic case of ‘chicken and the egg,’” Bassous explained.

Bassous doesn’t buy the argument that some banks won’t offer same-day ACH because they are afraid of cannibalizing their lucrative wire transfer volumes: “I haven’t heard that from banks and I think cards would be the bigger threat there.”

The bottom line is that many banks are not set-up for same-day ACH.

What do you think?

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