Deutsche Bank reduces check clearing in euros in Middle East

FILE PHOTO: The headquarters of Germany's Deutsche Bank are seen early evening in Frankfurt

By Tom Arnold and Arno Schuetze

DUBAI/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE> is to stop clearing checks denominated in euros for some banks in the Middle East, according to sources familiar with the matter, joining other big banks that cut services in the region.

Check usage globally has been on the wane as consumers and businesses turn to faster, digital payment alternatives and in part because of regulator and bank concerns about their potential use in fraud, money laundering and terror financing.

The move coincides with steps Germany’s biggest lender has taken to pare back its number of clients globally and become more stringent about compliance under a restructuring aimed at turning around its business and raising its capital.

The bank has told those lenders in the Middle East that do not hold a Deutsche Bank account that it would no longer clear checks in euros from April, a service it had previously offered, one of the sources said.

Deutsche Bank said that it had “reduced its check clearing services for customers with low activity levels” internationally.

The bank said it was phasing out check clearing globally and setting up a new digital global payments platform instead, although it would keep up the check business with bank clients generating decent business, the source added.

Checks accounted for just 6 percent of the total mix of global non-cash transactions in 2014, compared with 65 percent for cards, 12 percent for direct debits and 17 percent for credit transfers, according to Capgemini Financial Services and the Bank for International Settlements.

But in the Middle East checks are a more common feature of commerce, are often used for big-ticket transactions such as housing and other payments.

German rival Commerzbank <CBKG.DE> told customers in the Gulf in December it will no longer process their transactions in euros, sources said, joining other big banks that cut such services after being fined for dealings with Iran.

(Editing by Louise Heavens)