News & Views - Savantor

Growing support to maintain cash as a payment mechanism

Saturday, 16 March 2019

The role of cash has continued to be a topic for discussion during the past month.

In July 2018 the Access to Cash Review was launched, to look at the future of cash access across the UK. The review was funded by LINK but is independent from it. It was commissioned as a response to the rapid decline in cash use, together with the resulting impact on those who are unable to either use or access cash in an increasingly digital society.

The Final Report of the Access to Cash Review was issued in March. It calls on the Government, regulators and banks to act now to ensure cash remains viable or risk leaving millions excluded. The Review outlines an action plan which includes a “Guarantee to Cash Access” for all, including those in remote and rural areas; a requirement for those providing essential services to allow consumers to pay in cash; and support for the cash infrastructure to ensure that cash remains viable as its use declines.

The report seems to have been met with positive reactions from industry parties, as well as various articles in the media highlighting issues relating to reduced accessibility to cash.

The Bank of England has welcomed the Review, commenting that it is committed to cash and that it is important that everybody has a choice about how they make payments. The Bank announced that it will convene relevant stakeholders to develop a new system for wholesale cash distribution that will support the UK in an environment of declining cash volumes. As the oversight and regulation of cash involves a number of authorities, it also stated its commitment to working together with HM Treasury, the Payments Systems Regulator and the Financial Conduct Authority to further understand and address the concerns identified in the Review.

UK Finance has also reiterated, in a blog on its website by the MD for Personal Finance, the belief that the option of cash should always be available to those who prefer or need to manage their money in cash.

At the recent Retail Banking Conference, the Chair of the FCA made a similar point, concluding that whilst mobile banking, cashless transactions and various other technological developments may be easy and accessible options for some, others will need access to cash or bank branches for some time to come and this fact should not be forgotten.

There are already some initiatives attempting to mitigate against the reduced accessibility of cash: LINK has committed to maintain the broad geographical coverage of the ATM network in the UK and has put in place specific arrangements to protect free-to-use ATMs more than 1 kilometre away from the next nearest free-to-use ATM; Lloyds Banking Group is to run a pilot scheme in conjunction with Visa which will offer retailers a fee for processing cashback transactions over the counter.

Nevertheless it is clear that a coordinated and concentrated approach by the appropriate bodies is required to manage this topic in a way which addresses the key issues that have emerged as a result of the move towards digitalisation and away from cash.

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