News & Views - Savantor

Combining old and new technologies

Tuesday, 09 December 2014
The latest statistics collected by the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company indicate that although the decline in the rate of cheque usage has accelerated – between 2004 and 2013 cheque transaction volumes fell by 65% – nevertheless there are a number of scenarios where they remain a preferred payment method. Cheque use is highest where the payee's account details are not known or where the payee is unable to accept electronic payments. Use is therefore common where the recipient is an individual or small business, for example donations to charities, payments for child-related services such as childcare and school activities, subscriptions to clubs and societies, and payments to friends, family and tradesmen. In addition there is a reticence to use new banking technologies, more prevalent in the older generation, where there is lack of skills, knowledge and trust to using less traditional and more technological ways of banking. Until there are solutions which will make alternative solutions readily available and acceptable to all sectors of the population, cheques seem likely to remain a small but necessary service, although one which seems outmoded in these days of contactless, mobile and faster payment functionality. Therefore it is encouraging to see initiatives being developed using new technologies in conjunction with the old to help improve the current processes. In June the UK government announced that it would be introducing legislation that allows banks and building societies to process cheque images rather than the physical paper. As a result there are now several initiatives by banks such as Barclays and Lloyds where mobile cheque deposit functionality is being tested, whereby customers take a photo of the cheque using their mobile phone or tablet camera, eliminating the need to go into a branch or physically send a paper version. Funds can be cleared the same day. Not only can cheque imaging provide a more efficient and cheaper process for the banks, it may also encourage and educate consumers in the usage of mobile phone technology and increase trust in the use of such technology for banking. It may not fit with our ideas of an electronic paper-free banking world, but until the time that an acceptable solution (or number of solutions) can be introduces and consumers encouraged to embrace these alternatives, the humble cheque appears to fill a small but nevertheless important niche.
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