Everyone seems to want to pick on the check. Poor little guy… Obviously there are inefficiencies with checks, which translate into innovations and new products which generate margin in certain market segments. But let’s not forget:
- The UK tried to kill the cheque, and failed! Why? It wasn’t because England spells “check” incorrectly; it was because people don’t like to be told what to do and to give something up. Two hurdles which could not be overcome.
- The unbanked and check cashing: There are an estimated 13,000 check-cashing outlets in the U.S., cashing more than $80 billion worth of checks annually. Financial Service Centers of America (FISCA), an industry trade group representing CCOs and payday lenders, estimates national annual check cashing revenues at over $1.6 billion.1 You can’t stop that freight train.
- Huge market for check cashing: Even Walmart is interested: http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/08/09/wal-mart-expands-check-cashing-service/
- GDP: We’d probably lose a percentage on the GDP… we can’t afford that.
- Believe it or not: check cashers are typically younger than the general population, regularly in need of financial services after normal banking hours and many times living from paycheck to paycheck.
- Many consumers have not embraced debit cards and other forms of electronic payment.
- Debit card fraud has just become the loss leader for the banking industry while checks are safer than they have ever been.
- New processing methods have made it easier than ever for retail establishments to accept checks as payment without risk, i.e. smart phone applications.
The banking industry should embrace checks and strive to leverage a competitive strength. Attaining near straight-through-processing levels of efficiency, further reducing fraud, introducing innovative new products (i.e. Mobile RDC, payee downloads for Quicken) and leveraging check data as part of a data mining strategy can pay huge dividends. Just do not forget about yesterday—checks are bridging the gap to the future, and for these reasons, I doubt we’ll ever have a B.C. (Before Checks). They’ll be around forever…