Open Solutions Inc., Glastonbury

Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Choice Bank now has full electronic cash letter settlement capabilities with the Federal Reserve through the expanded resources of its current item processing platform – Glastonbury-based Open Solutions Inc.’s electronic image/item processing solution – making the institution the first bank in Arizona to leverage ECLs for settlement.

Open Solutions, a provider of integrated relational technologies to banks and credit unions across the United States and Canada, offers an entirely imaged-based outsourced item processing services solution, allowing financial institution branches and their merchants to capture images of checks from anywhere in the country and deposit image cash letters to the Federal Reserve. The Fed’s image cash letter settlement solution gives financial institutions the capacity to decrease transportation costs and improve funds availability through electronic check clearing. The result is a reduction in each financial institution’s transportation and clearing costs and an improvement in funds availability.

Choice Bank, which has $110 million in assets and about 5,000 customers at its two branches, has been an Open Solutions outsourcing customer since 2003. And the institution has the distinction of being the first bank in Arizona to use electronic cash letters. With Open Solutions as the technology provider, Choice Bank believes it is on the leading edge.

“The industry is moving in this direction,” said Pamela Chan, executive vice president and chief financial officer at Choice Bank. “By using Open Solutions’ ECL feature, we are able to improve funds availability from 90 percent to 99.9 percent.”

The bank’s former process involved sending the paper items by courier to the airport to fly them to the Fed at Los Angeles. Those items can now be posted and collected faster.

“This new process enables us to get our funds one to two days sooner than we were getting it when we processed paper deposits,” Chan added. “It is rare to find that capability at a community financial institution. Other benefits we recognized include integrating check images for better disaster recovery capability, eliminating courier transportation costs and, most importantly, providing our customers the check images through online banking.”

Investment Votes Unveiled

Results of the recent voting by Essex Savings Bank customers who participated in the Bank’s Community Investment Program have been announced.

The customer balloting portion of Essex Savings’ 2006 Community Investment Program began on Feb. 1 and concluded on March 15. During the first phase of the program, the bank’s customers were asked to select from a list of 76 qualified nonprofit organizations that applied to the bank for assistance.

Gregory R. Shook, president and chief executive officer of Essex Savings, said, “Our Community Investment Program is designed to provide financial support and visibility to these dedicated organizations and their people who enhance the quality of life in our communities.”

The bank annually donates 10 percent of its after-tax net income to nonprofit organizations and community development projects in its seven-town market area of Chester, Deep River, Essex, Lyme, Old Lyme, Old Saybrook and Westbrook. According to Thomas Lindner, vice president and community relations officer for Essex Savings, 9,193 votes were cast this year. Lindner said $75,000 will be disbursed during the months of April and May based on those ballots. The remaining $175,000 will be distributed over the year by the bank’s management. By year-end 2006, $250,000 will have been allocated to over 268 organizations, bringing the total distribution since the inception of the program in 1996 to nearly $1.83 million.

Essex Savings Bank is a Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.-insured, state-chartered mutual savings bank established in 1851. The bank serves the Lower Connecticut River Valley with four offices in Essex, Old Saybrook and Old Lyme. Financial, estate, insurance and retirement planning are offered throughout the state by the bank’s Trust Department and subsidiary Essex Financial Services.