"Key industries remain committed to the use of cheques and are keenly interested in the potential introduction of image-based cheque clearing technology." That is according to Martin Ruda, Managing Director of the Tall Group of Companies, who is commenting on the latest research conducted by the UK leader in the provision of secure paper and payment solutions.
The research from the TALL Group has revealed that there is still a strong commitment to processing significant volumes of cheques efficiently across a number of sectors. The company surveyed more than 100 of its customers using its Checkprint Banking Assistant solution, a cheque imaging system that combines a desktop scanner to capture cheque images at point of receipt with comprehensive analysis software for reconciliation and archiving. The results showed that on average each customer received in excess of 650 cheques per week, with one customer having to process up to 17,000 cheques on a weekly basis.
The research also revealed that the top use cases were reconciliation of payments, post-payment query resolution, secure record keeping/auditing, proof of purchase, and verification of source of funds. Many respondents, which included charities, local authorities, utilities, building societies and universities, also stated that they currently courier the cheques they receive to their banks, as opposed to physically visiting the branch.
The study complements the continuing effort within the industry to explore the benefits, costs and potential risks surrounding image-based cheque clearing, whilst awaiting the outcome of the consultation currently being conducted by HM Treasury.
Offering the potential for images to replace the original paper cheque in the clearing process, this technology is already well established in a number of major international cheque-using countries, and promises more efficient and possibly quicker clearing times for cheques in the years ahead.
In the UK, Hinckley and Rugby Building Society is one organisation that has seen notable efficiency gains as a result of using the Checkprint Banking Assistant. The society uses the solution to help track and trace cheques more easily in the case of queries or suspicions of fraud. The system is networked to provide access across the society's 11 branches, with around 850 cheques being scanned each week.
Due to the requirements around clearing cheques within a certain time frame, the society would sometimes have to authorise a cheque, even if there was a query over it, whilst waiting for it to be sent back from the processing centre. With the Checkprint Banking Assistant the organisation is able to quickly and easily track back through all of its cheques with an image available of every deposit it makes. As a result, the process of banking cheques is much more time efficient.
Martin Ruda said: "Every day there are around two million cheques processed within the UK and whilst this number is declining gradually, the study reveals that some organisations and individuals have an ongoing preference to issue cheques.
"There is no doubt that the current way of handling cheques in the UK is ripe for the realisation of significant process efficiencies. In countries such as the US, Brazil and India the use of technology to facilitate 'electronic' or image-based cheque clearing is increasingly well established and this has resulted in reduced costs and faster transfer of funds.
"The UK is on the verge of committing to real progress in cheque clearing, and as much of the technology is already available, and at a corporate level, already up and running in the UK, there is enough market intelligence to help make image-based processing happen sooner rather than later."