As we host a major cash summit, drawing together industry giants and experts, the Economic Secretary to the Treasury explains how and why cash is being protected.
This is a guest post by John Glen MP. All views expressed are John’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
When was the last time you paid for something costing more than a few pounds in cash? Ten years ago, cash accounted for more than three fifths of all payments in this country – today it’s less than three in ten.
But while cash may not be king for much longer, reports of its demise are greatly exaggerated. From budgeting to contingency, respondents to our Call for Evidence noted several reasons why notes and coins still have an important part to play in our economy.
Perhaps most compelling of all is financial inclusion. For many, including vulnerable people, the elderly, and those living in rural areas, cash can be a lifeline; and some smaller independent businesses believe they cannot afford the costs associated with contactless payments.
Catering for everyone in society
Technology has transformed banking for millions of people, making it easier and quicker to carry out financial transactions and pay for services.
This has huge benefits, but I also recognise that our financial system still needs to cater for everyone in society. We don’t want to hold back the pace of technology – but it mustn’t come at the expense of choice.
Hence, there will be no changes to our current system of notes and coins. Cash will remain available for those who need it, when they need it.
Nevertheless, as internet shopping and cashless payment becomes more widespread, we need to ensure that individuals and businesses can continue to manage their money in their local community in a way that’s convenient.
In 2015, we established the Payment Systems Regulator to help strike the right balance between competition and innovation on the one hand and protecting the interests of consumers on the other.
And through the creation of the Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group we are acting to ensure that regulation fully considers the end-to-end cash system in light of changing trends and preferences of consumers and businesses.
The Payment Systems Regulator is already examining what affects the distribution of ATMs across the country, and I welcome UK Finance’s announcement that they too intend to explore key issues around access to cash.
Considering customers’ needs
Banks and building societies must play their part, whether it’s creating shared banking hubs so that businesses can deposit large amounts of cash if they need to, or working to boost the number of retailers that offer cashback to shoppers.
Likewise, there’s a special obligation on developers to consider the needs of all customers as they design new banking products and forms of digital payment. It’s good to see companies like Square already working to understand how they can support the needs of smaller retailers.
No one should be locked out of the benefits that this technology brings.
Finally, we have established the Digital Skills Partnership to bring the public, private and voluntary sectors together, which will help people to manage their money in the digital age.
From next year all adults will be entitled to undertake fully-funded digital skills training, just as they can for adult literacy and numeracy.
So, in sum, action is underway on many fronts to ensure that a range of choices exist to serve the diverse needs in our society and the dynamic nature of our economy.
Industry, government and civil society all have a role to play, and it’s in our interests to work together.
After all, access to cash is not an end in itself: it’s a means to a stronger, more inclusive and more successful economy.
This was a guest post by John Glen MP. All views expressed were John’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
We think everyone should have the freedom to pay in a way that suits them, but we’re concerned that cash is at risk.
Do you think cash should be protected? If so, use our tool to tweet about why, and support our #Freedom2Pay campaign.