From December, Hong Kong residents will be able to send electronic cheques through their phones or other internet devices to settle bills, transfer money or even give away lai see, according to Hong Kong Monetary Authority chief executive Norman Chan Tak-lam. In a move to spur e-commerce and innovation, nine banks, which between them handle 70 per cent of the cheques in the city, will join the HKMA scheme, while another nine will join at a later stage. "People can use e-cheques to make all types of payments or even give lai see during the Lunar New Year," said the chief of the city's de facto central bank. "They work the same way as traditional cheques, but without using paper." On average, 450,000 cheques are issued every day. Those who want to issue e-cheques can simply use their mobile phones or internet banking accounts to generate a cheque in an electronic format and send the image to the receiver, who can then present it to the participating banks to collect the money. Chan said the settlement procedures and the time required to clear e-cheques would be no different from those for paper cheques. A cheque presented to a bank in the morning will be settled and cleared by the bank the same night and the payment made to the receiver the following day. There has been a proliferation of internet banking transfers and e-payment mediums, especially on the mainland, such as those run by Alibaba and Tencent. But Chan said e-cheques had an advantage over these payment modes in that they would not require both parties to register with the payment platform. "Many e-commerce payments require the receivers to hand in their bank account details. But with e-cheques, they don't need to submit any bank account information to the issuer," Chan said. "They will only need to present the e-cheque image to the bank and collect the money. It is easy and simple. People will love it." Chan said e-cheques will be the next major new project of the Hong Kong Interbank Clearing agency, which was established 20 years ago and is the clearing arm co-owned by the HKMA and the Hong Kong Association of Banks. The agency has also readied its payment system for the new cross-border fund sales scheme launched on July 1 allowing mainland funds to be sold in the city and international funds domiciled in Hong Kong to be sold on the mainland. Chan said the clearing agency now cleared HK$2 trillion a day, including 1 trillion in yuan. Besides cheque clearing, Hong Kong Interbank Clearing also handles real-time settlement of Hong Kong dollars, US dollars and yuan, as well as debt-instrument clearing.