OCR Technology for Financial Services

Optical character recognition (OCR) is no newbie in the digital world, but with a brand new approach, it can support many processes in several industries, including the financial sector. Today, we’ll focus on using an optical recognition system in the world of finances. How do OCR services work and what do they do? Keep reading to find it out.

What is OCR technology?

Defining the optical character reader is a relatively simple task. OCR technology helps recognize any text inside pictures and is used to transform that text contained within images (regardless of whether it is printed, typed or even handwritten) into understandable, digital text data. OCR is present in our activities on a daily basis, and as end users, we very rarely notice that it powers many background processes (we’ll cover them later on). For financial services, it helps with optimizing performance and automating many tedious, painstaking and time-consuming operations.

Optical text recognition for the financial sector

Below, you’ll find several ideas for which OCR can be utilized in financial solutions.

Document scanning

This is often necessary for the financial sector. Both clients and employees need to familiarize themselves with documents that are not available in a digital version, or they need to be signed and filled in by hand. To convert such documents into readable data, people used to re-write documents on computers. Nowadays, thanks to optical word recognition, it’s just a matter of scanning documents to digitalize them so that they can be edited online or on a computer afterward. It relates both to printable files like forms, surveys, agreements or arrangements, as well as to cards and identity documents. Scanning them is not only quicker, but also more precise. Long story short: converting business data in a convenient way helps a lot in reducing time spent on dealing with some red tape.

It’s much more powerful than just casual scanning. Due to the fact that optical character readers can identify words and letters from images, it helps with editing, organizing and sharing any document.

Credit card scanning

You may have already seen this in many mobile apps of popular banks or services, as well as a digital Wallet - Apple Pay. Optical image recognition here does nothing more than adding your card by scanning the important numbers on the front of it, then typing the CVC/CVV code on the reverse in manually afterward (for security). The technology is so advanced that it does not have any problems with detecting convex characters, even if the lighting is not perfect.

Data entry

One of the most popular types of documents scanned and used this way are invoices, but essentially any document can be processed like this. With optical character recognition technology, no manual input is required. This matters a lot in the financial sector, where a huge amount of data entry is required for bank statements, so saving every second (and reducing human error) is precious for a company’s condition and workflow.

Out-of-the-box usage

Optical character recognition systems can also be utilized for non-standard operations, helping out clients and employees in daily work. It’s enough, for example, to mention a couple of solutions for blind clients so that they can access printed information by converting an image into braille output. This definitely helps in the financial services, giving those visually impaired customers a chance to become familiarised with and understand all necessary documents themselves.

What are some well-known optical character recognition apps?

It’s worth noting that while there are some specialized optical recognition apps, some others only offer limited features related to OCR technology. These include Apple Pay and other types of digital wallets that scan cards, as already mentioned. There are also several mobile apps dedicated to scanning documents with various levels of accuracy.

However, we wanted to bring your attention to an app that we have developed as our side project that gained the interest of CitiBank - an app that uses optical character recognition features and can be categorized as one of the OCR finance apps since it is used for bill splitting. Meet FMCify!

Read more here: OCR Technology in Mobile Banking Apps.

We used Google’s framework, called Mobile Vision, to support identifying and extracting text from pictures and then built an app around it. All you need to do is to scan your bill to split it between other people involved in the transaction.

The future of optical image recognition

With a strong trend of increasing digital transformations, we are going to observe more solutions using optical character recognition services. However, to ensure its great success, you need to be aware that optical text readers cannot be considered to be reliable in all possibilities and cases. This is because its accuracy may be affected by external factors such as the quality of the print or a mix of printed content, which can be troublesome for OCR systems. As inaccurate as it still can be, however, it’s thrilling to watch the growing potential of optical character technology used for financial services. For now, it is mainly with plain text that it copes well, and it is widely used in the banking sector, though the ongoing development is impressive.

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