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Friday, April 12, 2013

What is CTS (Cheque Truncation System) 2010 Compliance

Background
You may have heard a lot about being mandatory to have cheques which are CTS 2010 compliant. There has been a revolutionary change in how cheques are being processed now a days and it is important to keep abreast with the change. Since banks have already moved to daily interest calculation, each day saved earns you more interest now a days.


What is Cheque Truncation?
Truncation is the process of stopping the flow of the physical cheque issued by a drawer at some point with the presenting bank en-route to the drawee bank branch. In its place an electronic image of the cheque is transmitted to the drawee branch by the clearing house, along with relevant information like data on the MICR band, date of presentation, presenting bank, etc. Cheque truncation thus obviates the need to move the physical instruments across branches, other than in exceptional circumstances for clearing purposes. This effectively eliminates the associated cost of movement of the physical cheques, reduces the time required for their collection and brings elegance to the entire activity of cheque processing.

What is the process flow in CTS
In CTS, the presenting bank (or its branch) captures the data (on the MICR band) and the images of a cheque using their Capture System (comprising of a scanner, core banking or other application) which is internal to them, and have to meet the specifications and standards prescribed for data and images.

To ensure security, safety and non-repudiation of data and  / or images, end-to-end Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) has been implemented in CTS. As part of the requirement, the collecting bank (presenting bank) sends the data and captured images duly signed and encrypted to the central processing location (Clearing House) for onward transmission to the paying bank (destination or drawee bank). For the purpose of participation the presenting and drawee banks are provided with an interface / gateway called the Clearing House Interface (CHI) that enables them to connect and transmit data and images in a secure and safe manner to the Clearing House (CH).

The Clearing House processes the data, arrives at the settlement figure and routes the images and requisite data to the drawee banks. This is called the presentation clearing. The drawee banks through their CHIs receive the images and data from the Clearing House for payment processing. The drawee CHIs also generate the return file for unpaid instruments, if any. The return file / data sent by the drawee banks are processed by the Clearing House in the return clearing session in the same way as presentation clearing and return data is provided to the presenting banks for processing. The clearing cycle is treated as complete once the presentation clearing and the associated return clearing sessions are successfully processed. The entire essence of CTS technology lies in the use of images of cheques (instead of the physical cheques) for payment processing.

What are the benefits of CTS to customers?
CTS brings elegance to the entire activity of cheque processing and clearing. Here are some of its typical benefits
1) Shorter clearing cycle
2) Superior verification and reconciliation process
3) No geographical restrictions as to jurisdiction
4) Operational efficiency for banks and customers alike
5) Reduction in operational risk and risks associated with paper clearing

What is Cheque Standardisation and what does CTS 2010 Standard mean?
Standardisation of cheque forms (leaves) in terms of size, MICR band, quality of paper, etc., was one of the key factors that enabled mechanisation of cheque processing. Over a period of time, banks have added a variety of patterns and design of cheque forms to aid segmentation, branding, identification, etc., as also incorporated therein a number of security features to reduce the incidence of cheque misuse, tampering, alterations, etc. Growing use of multi-city and payable-at-par cheques for handling of cheques at any branches of a bank, introduction of Cheque Truncation System (CTS), increasing popularity of Speed Clearing, etc., were a few aspects that led to prescription of certain minimum security features in cheques printed, issued and handled by banks and customers uniformly across the banking industry.

RBI has prescribed standardisation of cheques issued by banks across the country. This standardisation is in form of quality of paper, watermark, bank’s logo in invisible ink, void pantograph, etc., and standardisation of field placements on cheques. In addition, certain desirable features have also been suggested to be implemented by banks based on their need and risk perception.
The set of minimum security features would not only ensure uniformity across all cheque forms issued by banks in the country but also help presenting banks while scrutinising / recognising cheques of drawee banks in an image-based processing scenario. The homogeneity in security features is expected to act as a deterrent against cheque frauds, while the standardisation of field placements on cheque forms would enable straight-through-processing by use of optical / image character recognition technology. The benchmark prescriptions are collectively known as "CTS-2010 standard".
All banks providing cheque facility to their customers, have been advised to issue only 'CTS-2010' standard cheques

What is the prescription relating to alterations / corrections on cheque forms ?
The prescription on prohibiting alterations / corrections on cheques has been introduced to curtail cheque frauds on account of alterations in the various fields of cheques and to give protection to customers as well as banks. No changes / corrections can be carried out on the cheques (other than for date validation purposes, if required). For any change in the payee’s name, courtesy amount (amount in figures) or legal amount (amount in words), fresh cheque leaves should be used by customers.

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