Imaging cheque service gives new meaning to Photo Shop

Given the recent advances in technology, the cheque has long been in danger of going the way of dodo. The Payments Council even motioned to kill it off in 2018, but faced an avalanche of opposition.

It’s a good thing so many spoke out, especially for the older generation who may struggle with online banking compared to their Millennial counterparts.

Barclays has pioneered a scheme, cheque imaging, that breathes life into this most traditional way of banking. It seems that the cheque’s 11th hour reprieve has acted as a catalyst to preserve this element of banking culture.

Cheques finally catching up with on demand digital speeds

For those of us of an age, writing your first stub was a milestone on the way to adulthood and independence. With Smartphone banking apps, many of today’s youth will never have signed a cheque in their life.

Barclays new service seeks to change the perception of this ‘Olde Worlde’ method of depositing funds. Since June 2014, people using the bank’s iPhone app have been able to scan a written cheque and deposit it using Apple’s technology.

Following successful take-up of the service, it’s now being rolled out to Android users, too. But it’s not only the way cheques are deposited, digitally, that’s getting a makeover.

Waiting five or six days for funds to clear, as was (and is) the norm for chequeing services, is never going to cut the mustard for today’s on-demand consumer. Addressing this issue, clearance time has also been drastically reduced.

Cheque imaging: the spec

Barclays customers will no longer have to sacrifice their lunch hour to deposit a cheque up to the value of £500. Instead, they can photograph it and deposit it using their smart device.

The money, for both retail and business customers, is available instantly. For the über-cautious, who want to make sure the funds clear before drawing upon it, they can wait until the money’s safely in the account. But even the waiting time has improved.

For retail customers, cheques will take just two days to clear. The reason that’s dropped so radically is the need for physical transfer of the paper cheque itself has been deprecated by the new app facility.

Business customers, who can also use a desktop version, will have to wait the traditional six days. The supposition here is that most business cheques will be above the £500 threshold availed of retail users.

Even so, it cuts out the need for accounts staff to visit a branch, many of whom often feel obliged to sacrifice their lunch to ‘do the banking’. Alongside their ‘Digital Eagles’ campaign, Barclays is the bank setting the precedent for the digital age.

Is widespread adoption on the cards?

Not to be put out, Lloyds has also begun trialling a similar feature. 1,750 staff are the guinea pigs as they seek to emulate Barclays, whose close work with the Government has seen them steal a march.

To date, Apple app-users have banked three quarters of a million pounds using their iPhone. In addition to the businesses that have signed up, some 30,000 retail customers have also pledged to use the cheque imaging service.

With an Android version rolling out and Lloyds muscling in on the action, the good old cheque book and pen’s future doesn’t seem so Blankety Blank, after all.

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