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NBE unveils new, secure, efficient banking system
Two UK and three Indian currency and security printing companies have been selected to produce the new standardized check, which comes into effect as of January 1.
Part of the National Payment System (NPS), the check standardization project has become effective with Eth Switch’s card banking to follow suit in 2016.
National Bank of Ethiopia (NBE), financial institutions’ supervisory body, has worked with the Ethiopian Bankers’ Association for the past five years to implement the new check system.
The new check will be uniform across all financial firms, has security features including Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) code and watermark; the only notable variation in the check will be banks’ logos and corporate colors.
“It is also read by a machine,” Getahun Nana, Vice Governor of NBE, said at a press conference held to announce the launching ceremony.
Five foreign companies able to provide security printing were selected for the project. The Vice Governor said that the only security printing press in the country, Birhanena Selam, does not have the infrastructure required to print such security sensitive documents.
According to Haileyesus Mezgebu, Project Manager of the Ethiopian Check Standardization Project Office of NBE, told Capitalthat from seven companies that expressed interest in the printing process, five were selected with support from the Ethiopian Conformity Assessment Enterprise.
Currently, De La Rue Currency and Security Printing Limited and Tall Security Printing Limited, both from the UK; Madras Security Printers Private Limited, Manipal Technologies Limited and Shree Nidhi Security Printing from India, were selected to print the document.
Ethiopian banks shall print their checksonly from the above-mentioned companies. “The printers’ number can be increased if other interested companies request to be part of it and receive approval,” Haileyesus said.
The checks, including NBE’s, are printed byMadras Security Printers Private Limited, but banks shall have more choice in printing with selected companies in the future. The first round of printing will be of 29.441 million checks, printed at a cost of USD 508,590.
The checks currently being phased out have no common or adequate security features, despite effort from some banks to introduce limited security features in the face of checks. The new system will simplify check-clearing systems banks were obliged to undertake at NBE.
Getahun said that the new system will minimize the check clearing time to one day from the current two days and will be applicable to branches across regions. Banks will also have increased autonomy; they no longer need NBE to clearing their checks.
Previously,check clearing was not possible in bank branches outside Addis Ababa. The new check truncation system (CTS) enables clearing and settlement of check transactions based on the images and electronic data on the check without physical movement between the presenting and paying bank.
The Project Manager said that CTS allows banks to truncate checks at the point of capture by providing the capabilities of presenting check to the paying bank electronically and processing return checks electronically.
The new system also gives official recognition to personal checks, according to the Project Manager. Business checks are frequented in the financial industry, while some banks introduced personal checks in recent years. However, there will be differences in check sizes, says Haileyesus.
Addisu Habba, president of Ethiopian Bankers and Debub Global Bank, said that the implementation process is managed fully by Ethiopian professionals representing all 19 banks and NBE.
The study for the project was conducted by NBE professionals, “but the World Bank provided support to assign Bankable Frontier Associates, US based consultancy firm, to evaluate and give recommendation on the study,” Haileyesus told Capital.
The old checks will be in use on the market over the coming six months, as the new system is phased in.