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ICBA Welcomes Federal Reserve Check 21 Announcements

Washington, D.C. (May 18, 2004) - The Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) welcomed the Federal Reserve's long-awaited announcements today regarding Check 21 products.

The Federal Reserve announced its comprehensive and flexible Check 21 Product Suite, including FedForward, FedReturn and FedReceipt Services. The Product Suite will be invaluable in reducing the industry's dependence on a paper check-processing infrastructure as the Federal Reserve and the banking industry grapple with downsizing check operations in response to declining check volumes.

"Since passage of Check 21 last October, community banks nationwide have been in a holding pattern, waiting for the Federal Reserve's Check 21 product offerings," said Camden R. Fine, president and CEO of ICBA. "Whether community banks obtain Check 21 services from the Federal Reserve or a private-sector provider, all community banks benefit from this announcement. The Federal Reserve's marketplace presence provides a critical benchmark for service comparison and decision-making."

Viveca Y. Ware, director of payments policy at ICBA, added, "The Federal Reserve's lower prices for Check 21 electronic products further reiterate the importance that community banks plan now to move to some form of electronic check clearing, given the higher cost of clearing checks drawn on endpoints requiring substitute checks. As paper check volumes continue to decline, per-check clearing costs will accelerate."

In addition, ICBA has long urged the Federal Reserve to be proactive in setting payment standards. Federal Reserve adoption of operational policies designed to facilitate Check 21 implementation by establishing industry baseline practices and addressing quality issues in an image environment is a step in the right direction for the fast-approaching October 2004 Check 21 roll-out date.