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Enable Remote Check Deposits in the US

Can you remember a time when you couldn’t deposit a check using your smartphone? We can, because we were part of creating this capability! Working with the Federal Reserve Bank system, we handled the intricate workflows, regulations, and integrations to enable US banks nationwide to enable mobile check deposits.


The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (“Check 21”) was legislated by Congress and became effective October 28, 2004. Check 21 was created to enable banks to handle more checks electronically (including through mobile deposit). By 2007, the original platform was exceeding capacity and lacked the design and infrastructure necessary to process the rising number of electronically processed checks.

The Federal Reserve System embarked upon a four-year, multi-million dollar program to replace the existing system with one which would be scalable to process the more than 55 million daily electronic checks anticipated by the time of implementation.

One of APG Emerging Tech’s consultants was the project director responsible for the business-led initiative inside the Federal Reserve System.  Internally, he led a team of business office resources, middleware application teams, core IT infrastructure (hardware and software) teams, and external vendors to build the replacement system.


Prior to our involvement, the project had stalled with a vendor that was eventually replaced. Key subject matter experts (SMEs) were spending extraordinary amounts of time defining and revising requirements only to experience frustration when components of the system were rolled out for testing and did not pass. Senior leaders were frustrated by the lack of transparency to where the project was and where it was going. Our team was able to bring focus, lead through adversity, and create better collaboration. We applied core project and program principles while we remained flexible to the unique demands of working across an extremely large, and publicly visible organization.

Running the program using core Project Management Office (PMO) principles while also introducing unique interactive approaches to assess and revise strategy in ‘real time’ resulted in delivery hitting key project milestones. For example, we implemented ‘daily morning huddles’ to bring all leaders together to discuss the program before branching off into the various work efforts. We also placed key senior leaders in a war-room to address and resolve real-time blockages that would have otherwise prevented the various teams from moving forward in their respective areas. 


The establishment of a formal program management structure, hiring of additional project management resources, implementation of Microsoft Project Server, and the use of agile principles (emerging at the time) resulted in better internal collaboration within the Federal Reserve teams and with its vendors. Improved oversight of the interwoven project components and transparency in cost, timeline, and resource capacity constraints minimized delays in overall development allowing the program to meet its delivery schedule.

The end result is our collective ability to process mobile check deposits from the comfort of our home – which otherwise would have made the pandemic year even more frustrating! The resulting Check 21 application remains in existence today because it was constructed to scale with the continued evolution of mobile check processing between 2011 and the present day.

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