Barclays expands cheque payment technology

Barclays is expanding a pilot to enable a million customers to pay in cheques online by taking a picture of them

Barclays is expanding a pilot project to enable a million customers to pay in cheques online by taking a picture of them.

Barclays has been piloting the scheme with thousands of customers since June but the extension will see a million given the capability. The bank is also planning to try it out with corporate customers. The bank said these customers process around 46 million cheques each year, with a value of more than £100bn billion.

The use of cheques has been in decline and industry regulators had been planning for their end. In 2009, when the financial services industry celebrated the 350th birthday the cheque, the future was pointing to certain death.

Speaking to Computer Weekly then, a spokesperson at the Association of Payments and Clearing Services (Apacs), which was replaced by UK Payments Administration Ltd, said 350 would be the cheque's last major birthday.

"It would be fair to say this is the last big birthday the cheque will celebrate," said the Apacs spokesperson. "This is because more and more people are using automated payment methods or plastic."

The use of cheques peaked in 1990 but dropped significantly since.

The Payments Council was tasked with managing the decline of the cheque, although no date has been set for it to be fully replaced. "Cheques will not stop until a replacement is found," it said.

But technology has reversed this as the developments at Barclays show.

In January 2015, the UK government is expected to make the digital image of a cheque legal tender, paving the way to end paper cheque processing.

Following the change in legislation in the first six months of 2015, HM Treasury will set out rules and time frames.

Barclays will expand the pilot to Android-based smartphones soon.

The use of new technology in bank branches is also increasing the importance of a bank service once see as in terminal decline.

A history of the cheque up to its expected decline

1659 Date of the earliest known surviving English cheque

1717 Bank of England introduced printed cheques

1770 Daily cheque clearings formalised

1811 First known personalised printed cheques produced

1821 Committee of bankers formed to regulate clearings in London

1833 First clearing house built in Lombard Street, London

1939 Clearing transferred from London to Stoke-on-Trent due to World War II

1946 Clearing transferred back to Lombard Street, London

1965 First cheque card issued allowing sterling cheques to be guaranteed up to the value of £30

1966 First credit card, Barclaycard, introduced in the UK

1969 UK Domestic Cheque Guarantee Card Scheme introduced

1985 Cheque and Credit Clearing Company established

1987 First debit card, Connect, introduced in the UK by Barclays

1989 First telephone-only bank, First Direct, introduced

1990 Peak year for cheque volumes

1996 Scottish cheque clearing with Scottish Exchange came under the responsibility of the Cheque and Credit Clearing Company

1997 First internet banking service introduced by Nationwide

2005 Shell stopped accepting cheques

2005 London Exchange moved to Milton Keynes and renamed the English Exchange

2007 Cheque volumes declined by fastest rate ever

2008 Most major retailers stopped accepting cheques

2008 Faster Payments Service introduced for online, phone and standing order payments. Payments Council published National Payments Plan suggesting active management of the decline of the cheque is required, with a possible closure of the cheque clearing in 2018.

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