January is a time of lists. For some, it’s their 2014 resolutions. For me, it’s my post-Christmas to-do list. Inevitably, there will be quite a few thank-you letters to write (even for those unwanted presents that feed the January eCommerce activity). I will also be making my way to the bank to cash the checks I’ve received from the more removed (and dare I say older) relatives. And I won’t be alone: 23 million checks were sent as gifts in the United Kingdom in 2012. This unwanted yet unavoidable annual visit to the branch means that whilst checks might be a less risky present, they are not hassle-free. But hopefully not for much longer. In 2014, the UK government will finally consult on introducing legislation to speed up check payments, including through smartphone-enabled remote deposit capture. And about time.
In the US, bank customers have been using services like USAA’s Deposit@Home since December 2006. Remote deposit capture was initially only possible through a high-resolution scanner. Innovations in mobile technology have made remote deposits easier and more popular. By 2012, 13% of US online adults who have done mobile banking activities in the past three months reported depositing a check by taking a picture with their mobile device.
Remote deposit capture is a win-win solution. It cuts the time and cost of check transaction and processing, frees up branch staff for higher-value services, and enables customers to complete their goals whenever and wherever they want. However, there are a few tricks to getting it right, as outlined by my colleague, Cathy Graeber, in her report on Redstone Federal Credit Union's path to right-channelling success through mobile remote deposit capture. Customers are likely to demand real-time availability of deposited funds. Banks must think through what this means for their processes. They must also tailor their strategies to their customer base and business objectives.
In the UK, the first bank to experiment with remote capture deposit will be Barclays Bank. Perhaps embracing technologies that make life easier for its customers could be one of the first steps in the CEO’s strategy to rebuild people’s trust in his bank over the next five to ten years. Checks are very likely to disappear some day, but in the meantime, customers still care, and so should the banks.