Banks to accept cheques paid via smartphones

UK banks are to follow in the footsteps of their US counterparts by allowing customers to pay in cheques through their smartphones.

The new method is likely to take the form of a specifically designed app that will allow cheques to be photographed and sent electronically to the bank securely.

Chief executive of Barclays Antony Jenkins told the BBC: "Moving into a virtual world will actually create a more secure customer experience than the paper experience today."

Sending cheques electronically first began in the United States nine years ago in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre. Since then cheques have fallen out of favour with many bank customers, seen as an outdated payment method in an increasingly digital world.

Not long ago the UK Payments Council had planned to abolish cheque payments by 2018, however this new technology will make such payments more convenient and appropriate for modern users.

Using a smartphone, a cheque could be cleared four days quicker than it currently takes by going to the bank in person.

"We want to see more innovation so that customers see the benefits of new technologies," said Sajid Javid, the financial secretary to the Treasury. "We want cheques to have a crucial role in the ongoing success of the UK."

The first pilot scheme is expected to be launched by Barclays in April, a bank already feeling the full effects of mobile technology on its services. In December Barclays announced 1,700 job losses as a direct result of such technology.

"I think people are going into branches less and less, particularly as a result of mobile banking, and that's going to accelerate the process," said Jenkins.