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BANKS READY TO PHASE OUT CHEQUE PAYMENTS

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MBABANE – Local banks support their South African counterparts’ decision to end cheque payments.

In the past week, Nedbank South Africa joined that country’s ‘big four’ banks; Standard Bank, First National Bank and Absa in phasing out cheques. In an announcement last Tuesday, Nedbank South Africa said this was because few clients were making use of the service. As of January 1, 2021 Nedbank clients will no longer be able to use cheques as a payment option.

In reaction to the developments in South Africa, EBA never ruled out the possibility of local banks taking that step in future. EBA is the Eswatini Bankers Association consisting of six member banks that are fully licensed by the Central Bank of Eswatini. These are (in no particular order) Farmers Bank, FNB, EswatiniBank, Nedbank, Standard Bank and Swaziland Building Society.

decision

“We are aware that banks in South Africa have announced that they are ending cheque payments and we concur with the decision, as we believe that this is the direction the financial system should be going.

 “It is only a matter of time that the same decision is taken in Eswatini,” said EBA Chairman Zakhele Lukhele.

Lukhele was quick to stress that locally the matter was still under discussion, with a decision not made as yet. 

“The public should note though, that paying using cheques to South Africa was phased out and this decision no longer an issue for cross border payments.

“The public is urged, therefore, to consider using other means of payment such as direct transfers (EFT), Digital Banking platforms (such as Mobile Apps and Internet Banking). Once a pronouncement has been made, it will be communicated through the appropriate structures,” said Lukhele.

While many businesses are embracing electronic payments and online transactions, there is still a sizeable amount of companies which prefer to use cheques for much of their business banking.

processing

Many businesses, particular small firms or new start-ups, may not have the facilities in place to process electronic or online payments. Receiving a cheque as payment is easier for them as they can leave the processing end of things to the bank.

For smaller firms, with cash flow issues, paying by cheque means the funds will leave their bank account slower and they have some leeway.

“Even if you have the facility to process electronic payments, by indicating a willingness to accept cheques, you are increasing the amount of potential customers. 

“If you shut off  one particular avenue for payment, you may be turning business away as many people are still more comfortable paying by cheque,” anonymously shared an expert.

supported

Meanwhile, in South Africa reports suggest that it has become clear that cheques have become obsolete and can no longer be supported. Cheque payments are said to be contributing less than 0.1 payments of total payment volumes in South Africa.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has further accelerated the decline of cheque use as clients opted for safer, paperless payment options. This trend is not expected to reverse,” South Africa’s Anton de Wet, Chief Client Officer at Nedbank Retail and Business Banking was quoted saying.

Nedbank South Africa began the process to suspend cheques in 2019  to help clients migrate to more suitable options.

“Parties that have been paid with a cheque will have to deposit the cheque before January 1, 2021 for the payment to be processed. Clients that have a Nedbank-issued cheque after January 1, 2021 will not be able to deposit the cheque and will have to contact the person or entity that issued the cheque and request an alternative payment, as the cheque will no longer be accepted at any bank,” reads a statement from that country’s Nedbank.

From May 2020 the banking sector in South Africa reduced the cheque limit from E500 000 to E50 000. This was driven mainly by concerns arising from persistent fraud in its use.

abandonment

Nedbank was the last of the ‘big four’ banks to announce the abandonment of cheques.

FNB South Africa stopped printing cheque books this month and will no longer issue cheques come the end of the year. 

That country’s Standard Bank will no longer issue cheque books from October 1, 2020 and Absa will exit cheques as a payment instrument by the end of this year.

Deputy CEO of Absa’s Retail and Business Bank Bongiwe Gangeni previously said bank charges for processing cheques were relatively high, making it an expensive form of payment. “Moreover, with the need for verification and validation, it can take up to 10 days for a cheque to clear. This extended timeframe makes the process more open to abuse and fraud.”

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