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Banks push technology to clear cheques faster

The UK's leading banks are considering developing image processing technology to cut cheque clearance times from three to two...

The UK's leading banks are considering developing image processing technology to cut cheque clearance times from three to two days.

Nick Huber

The tentative plans emerged during a Commons Treasury Committee meeting last week, which saw the banks come under fire from MPs for their record of investing in payment technology.

The talks over the use of electronic images could involve banks keeping an electronic image of each cheque, which could later be retrieved from a central archive.

The use of imaging technology for cheques is well established. Nationwide Building Society uses scanners and character recognition software from to automate its cheque clearance system.

But analysts said the banks' interest in imaging technology for cheques was misguided.

"They really should be pushing more people to be using electronic funds transfer and things like credit cards," said Duncan Brown, consultancy manager at IT analyst Ovum.

Earlier this month it emerged that UK's banks had sidelined ambitious e-commerce initiatives, including an industry-wide project for paying bills over the Internet.

Payment clearing association Apacs said that far-reaching e-commerce initiatives were being relegated in importance as banks try to meet targets outlined in the Cruickshank review into the UK banking industry.

A key target of the review is for the banks to speed up the time it takes for customers to switch accounts.

nick.huber@rbi.co.uk

This was first published in January 2001

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