The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has replaced its ageing NCR cheque processing system at its Harare and Bulawayo centres with a new system supplied and implemented by Unisys Africa. The six-month project enhanced functionality and increased cheque processing capacity at the bank, to cater for current and future demands.

"The Unisys system has created a modern processing platform which will enable the bank to integrate its planned branches in other parts of the country more effectively and enhance market coverage," says Alen Marimbe, division chief - Banking and Currency Management Division at the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.

The system is based on the Unisys Quantum range of cheque processors, EMC storage and Aperta software. Marimbe says Unisys Africa was chosen because it could meet current and future requirements of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and has a reliable implementation methodology and support track record. The scalability of the system as well as the ability for component upgrade as well as enhanced risk management features in the Unisys Quantum range was an added advantage. Unisys Africa has three commercial bank customers operating similar systems in the country.

The Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe has implemented four system modules: cheque image processing, archiving, image statement print and signature verification. It currently processes between 4 000 and 8 000 images per day, depending on demand.

"The new system has enabled the immediate consolidation of previously fragmented operations," says Marimbe. "Within four months of operating, the staff complement has been slashed in half, from 23 to 14." These 14 ensure document security, prepare documents for processing, run the documents on the Unisys transports, capture and balance data in the system and verify signatures. The project also facilitated a thorough review of process flows resulting in the elimination of duplications and a marked improvement in processing efficiency.

"The new system enabled high-speed processing which has in turn significantly reduced incidences of overtime," says Marimbe.  He adds that customer service has also been enhanced because queries are resolved far quicker thanks to an online archive enquiry service. Disaster recovery features have been garnered through mirrored operational systems at Bulawayo and Harare. The bank has also gained improved security features, segregation, a detailed audit trail and "a number of other critical enhancements including detailed management reports".

The implementation project kicked off in April 2005. The first phase of the project incorporating basic functionality was completed in September 2005.  Implementation involved technical employees from Unisys Africa, the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe and Unisys Africa's local Zimbabwean support partner, Burco. Burco offers first-line support, escalations are sent through to Unisys Africa and further software escalations to Aperta in Scotland.