The CheckImage Collaborative has announced the creation of a Universal Companion Document (UCD) which establishes a uniform industry approach for populating and validating check image files. Since the implementation of the Check Clearing Act for the 21st Century (Check 21) in October 2004, the banking industry has been rapidly transforming from a paper-based check clearing structure to an image-based system with nearly half of all checks paid cleared as images today. Ongoing interoperability issues have impacted the industry's ability to realize the full value of check image clearing. One of the biggest obstacles to true interoperability has been the use of the check image file format standard. The creation of the UCD establishes a consistent approach for all industry participants to use when processing check image files.
The CheckImage Collaborative, initiated by the Electronic Check Clearing House Organization (ECCHO) and the Retail Payments Office (RPO) of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, is comprised of representatives of trade and financial organizations from across the country. Through its Image Quality Work Group, the Collaborative marshaled resources from a wide range of financial institutions as well as major image exchange intermediaries to develop a common, business-based approach toward use of the DSTU 9.37 - 2003 check image exchange file format standard. Additionally, the group coordinated its efforts with those of the Accredited Standards Committee X9's Payments Subcommittee working on the emerging check image exchange file format standard X9.100-187. This resulted in compatibility between the UCD and the emerging X9.100.187 standard which is currently being balloted. This coordination eliminates the need for financial institutions to make additional changes to support the new standard. "The UCD helps maximize the value of the check payment system by reducing the inconsistent application of the standard for the exchange of check images" said David Walker, President and CEO of ECCHO.
As active participants in this effort, intermediaries such as Endpoint Exchange, SVPCO and Viewpointe as well as the Federal Reserve, have committed to work with their respective customers and vendors to make the necessary changes to check image applications to help ensure compliance with and implementation of the UCD over the next 12 to 18 months. "The development of the UCD and, more importantly, the assurance of implementation by each of the major intermediaries provides a clear signal to the industry that real solutions to obstacles to full check electronification can be forged in a manner that benefits all industry participants" said Fred Herr, Senior Vice President of the Retail Payments Office of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta.
A copy of the UCD is available at http://www.checkimagecentral.org/
About the CheckImage Collaborative
The CheckImage Collaborative is comprised of representatives from trade associations and financial organizations. The group was formed in early 2005 to identify and share information on check image clearing that will help financial institutions understand and successfully implement image exchange.