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By Lynton Buxton, TALL group

“The coronavirus pandemic is a public health emergency. But it is also an economic emergency. We have never, in peacetime, faced an economic fight like this one.

I know that people are deeply worried. I know that people’s anxiety about the disease itself is matched only by their anxiety about their livelihoods.”

Strong words from The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak who has described the current emergency as an ‘economic fight’. As businesses throughout the UK assess the impact of the coronavirus on their day-to-day operations, it is clear that ‘normal’ activity will be severely restricted as members of staff are forced to remote work or self-isolate as necessary. The plight of many industry sectors that are faced with significantly reduced revenues as a result of restrictions will only continue to grow.

As businesses find their financial teams reduced in numbers, the ability to process payments whether ‘in’ or ‘out’ can become stretched. For those organisations that receive large numbers of cheques, the new Image Clearing System (ICS) can provide an answer with the ability through some banks to remotely deposit cheques. The use of a desktop cheque scanner to image a cheque, for these images then to be consolidated into a data file for onward transmission to the organisation’s bank, can assist in reducing staff travelling time to local branches, avoiding social contact and free up resource for other stretched areas of the organisation. For smaller numbers of received cheques, mobile banking app’s may well provide an answer again avoiding the need to visit a local branch.

Where businesses are still making payments by the ‘good old dependable’ cheque, there are ways in which the process of cheque production can be facilitated. For businesses that rely on the use of ‘special’ or corporate cheque books to make payments that require hand writing and signing, the introduction of computer cheques may be an answer to speed up production. These ‘special’ computer cheques can be branded with corporate logos, colours and fonts and available pre-signed if necessary. Using dedicated cheque production software, or integrated accounting packages, these cheques are ‘infilled’ at the organisation prior to distribution.

Indeed, the use of cheque production software packages can also have an added benefit by the addition of Image Survivable Features (ISF’s) on printed cheques. With the introduction of cheque image clearing in the UK, there has been an associated rise in attempted cheque fraud as fraudsters seek to identify ‘weak spots’ in the clearing system. The addition of a security device, such as a Unique Coded Number (UCN) or UCN Plus® QR code can help prevent attempted fraud by encrypting ‘key’ details from the face of the cheque, either in the case of the UCN at the time of printing of the original cheque stock, or for the UCN Plus® at the time of cheque infilling. ISF’s are becoming a major deterrent in the fight against fraud.

For those businesses and organisations that are really struggling to maintain payment processes, the use of Business Process Outsourcing services could be an answer. Outsourcing business processes has major advantages in freeing up valuable resource and enabling ‘business-as-normal’ processes to be undertaken. Additionally, for those organisations faced with increased payment workload processing refunds, compensation payments, etc as a result of the continuing issues surrounding the coronavirus outbreak, the ability to outsource extra fulfilment is a major benefit. Payments, whether as paper documents or electronic services, can be made on an organisation’s behalf, branded appropriately and at a scheduled point in time to suit.

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