Feditorial: Continuing Growth in Technology

W. LeGrande Rives

In the coming months, the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis will usher in a new era when we welcome a new president. As Tom Melzer prepares to move on, the District staff is deeply grateful to him for nearly 13 years of inspirational leadership, and we wish him equal success with future endeavors. Tom's tenure was a time of rapid technological growth here, during a critical period for the banking industry. Tom was a major contributor to that growth in his role as District president and more recently as chairman of the System's Financial Services Policy Committee (FSPC).

I thought now might be an appropriate time to reflect on some of these advancements. The most obvious technological progress at the Fed has come in financial services. Here, our primary goal has been to promote the move from paper-based to electronic payments. Just a decade ago, most institutions transferred ACH information manually from paper listings or hired couriers to deliver magnetic tape. By 1993, the service was all electronic, enabling us to lower ACH prices and aggressively market options like direct deposit and direct payment. Today, we operate on a national centralized system.

Meanwhile, we've also made major improvements to our check collection services to reduce processing costs and paper handling, while speeding up check collection times. In addition, we've developed, through our Fedline system, an electronic check presentment (ECP) service, moving check collection one stride in the direction of electronic payment. We have also introduced check truncation and imaging services.

In the supervisory arena, we developed information systems which allow us to perform many tasks directly from the Fed, reducing the disruptive hours examiners must spend on-site at financial institutions. Here, technology has improved our ability to identify risk, while reducing the burden of Fed examinations.

Finally, our presence on the Internet permits us to share information with constituents. Today, at www.stlouisfed.org, you will find the latest economic statistics, copies of our publications, educational resources for teachers, and a host of information for bankers.

Clearly, the technological boom of the past decade has enabled us to more effectively carry out our mission. Tom has been a champion of this technological growth, and I anticipate that this trend will continue as we prepare for a change in our District leadership.

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