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UK Cheque Clearing could be dragged into the 21st Century.

At the latest Cheque User Forum, hosted in London by the Cheque & Credit Clearing Company, a vision of the future of cheque clearing was laid out for an animated group of about 150 cheque professionals.

 

The potential for image based clearing, now an established feature of the landscape in the US, Brasil, India, etc, might just be gathering momentum in an environment still closing the wounds of credibility inflicted by the Payments Council’s U-turn on the proposed closure of the centralised cheque clearings, originally slated for 2018.

 

Common sense prevailed, with a healthy nudge from Her Majesty’s Government, and user groups finding a more confident voice in the face of banking disasters over the last five years. Now that all are committed to providing cheques for as long as anyone wants them, attention turns to a more efficient, possibly quicker, and certainly technology-leveraged clearing solution.

 

As explained at the Forum, the UK should benefit from the years of learning, and some mistakes, that other countries have endured in the implementation of Check-21 type truncation, and the technology is now not only better, but cheaper, an environment the Brits will undoubtedly appreciate. But the key to all the benefits on offer, and very much the word of the moment, is ‘collaboration’, and this does not come easily to a UK banking sector that counts just five or six big beasts in its jungle, with the legacy systems, risk aversion and suspicion of operational change that come as baggage.

 

Notwithstanding the challenges, there is enough intelligence, enough collective ambition to ‘do a good job’, that the balanced view says this can be made to happen.  With a new regulatory regime likely to impact the payments sector in the near term, the safe bet is that a ‘version’ of the international models will be put in place, but, as this is the UK, it will of course be up to each of us to use it if, and how, we see fit. 

 

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