Atlanta Office Keeps New Orleans Branch Check Function
The Federal Reserve Banks’ Financial Services Policy Committee announced in December that the Atlanta Fed’s head office will retain the New Orleans Branch’s check processing operation. Since Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005, the Atlanta office has processed checks on a contingency basis for the New Orleans Branch zone.
New Orleans’ check processing will be fully integrated into the Atlanta office by March 31. Institutions using the Reserve Banks’ check services should not notice a significant difference as a result of the move.
The New Orleans Branch will continue to perform a number of other important Federal Reserve functions, including providing cash services to financial institutions in its zone (see “Atlanta Fed’s New Orleans Presence Remains Strong”).
Move was considered earlier
The Reserve Banks considered moving New Orleans’ check processing to Atlanta in the spring of 2005 as part of their annual check infrastructure review but decided to delay that move and re-evaluate that decision in 2006. “As we looked ahead, we were certain that at some point in the near future we would be moving New Orleans’ check processing volume to Atlanta,” said Patrick K. Barron, first vice president of the Atlanta Fed and director of the Fed’s Retail Payments Office.
After Katrina struck, the branch’s check processing staff was shifted to Atlanta. “We did not want to ask staff to resettle in New Orleans only to be faced with a move back to Atlanta a short time later,” Barron said.
Consolidation follows checks’ trend
Over the past three years, the Reserve Banks have significantly reduced their total number of check processing locations as check volumes have declined and been replaced by electronic forms of payment such as credit and debit cards and automated clearinghouse transactions. At the time of last December’s announcement, the Reserve Banks processed checks in 27 locations nationwide, down from 45 locations in 2003. Eliminating six additional locations, including New Orleans, will reduce that number to 21 by the end of 2007.
All New Orleans check staff, most of whom have been working and living in Atlanta since the hurricane, were offered jobs in the Atlanta office. Staff wishing to return to the New Orleans Branch have the opportunity to apply for open positions there.