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John Willett | Towers + Gornall
Hard cash has been in use for centuries and because of this it has naturally become a trusted and reliable medium with which to conduct business transactions. With the onset of the digital age and the switch to online transactions; the popularity of the debit/credit card and paperless banking, the use of cash has slowly been on the decline.
The migration to transacting digitally has been welcomed enthusiastically by some; less so by others who prefer to deal with solid currency. Despite the quick and convenient nature of such things as BACS transfers and contactless payment methods they are relatively still in their infancy – the opinion seems to be split over contactless payments: a matter of convenience versus scepticism.
Recent studies suggest that opinion is split between the reliance of the public on cash transactions. According to the PPRO Group some 26% of Brits would never choose to pay by cash for a shop item when they can use their card, to the extent that they actually find it annoying when they are forced to use cash. It is argued that this preference for cards with which to pay for goods and services would surely reduce the requirement for ATMs on the high-street.
On the other hand ACI Worldwide surveys suggest that 42% of Brits will continue to use high-street ATMs as much as they always have done, despite the migration towards digital transfers. It would seem that despite the growing popularity of non-cash transactions a good percentage of consumers would rather continue using ATMs, at least for certain types of transactions.
Cash is seen by many as a way of controlling their own spending. It is considered that cash remains popular by those who are used to using it the most (the elderly, perhaps) and those who have restricted access to the internet (by choice or by geography, i.e. those in rural areas). Those in trade also continue to use cash whether transactions are of small or larger denomination.
And yet despite all of this it seems that the high-street ATM might well be on the decline.
LINK Group (the banking industry group controlling, amongst other things, the funding of ATM machines) has proposed a cut in the fees which banks and building societies pay to ATM operators. Analysts have commented that this will inevitably lead to thousands of free-to-use ATMs disappearing from the high-street and help push Britain further towards a cashless society.
A spokesperson from LINK Group has already looked to allay fears over the effects of this fee-cutting strategy. The plan is to prune ATMs in areas where there are multiple machines in very close proximity while safeguarding those machines in more deprived communities, where demand might not otherwise make them viable.
The effects on Garstang and the local area are currently unknown. Recently we have seen the closure of both HSBC and Lloyds Bank (although the latter continues to maintain a mobile presence on the town square). It would be logical to view these closures and the recent announcement by LINK Group as a common theme. That said, ACI Worldwide have suggested that the closure of regional branches may actually put a greater emphasis on the role of the ATM, including services beyond simple cash withdrawal.
Those in trade who continue to rely on cash as their primary medium of payment may do well to switch to digital methods sooner rather than later. Nevertheless, at least in the short-term, it seems that cash will continue to play a part in our everyday lives, albeit perhaps on a restricted basis.