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A year of cash innovation

by Guillaume Lepecq | Sep 01, 2017

cash_growthThe Cash Essentials website was launched slightly over a year ago. It is probably a good time to look back and review what has been happening in terms of innovation in the cash cycle. This is certainly neither a comprehensive nor a scientific exercise, but hopefully it reflects some of the on-going trends.


When unicorns meet cash

A unicorn is a start-up company valued at over a billion dollars. Many initially based their business model exclusively on digital transactions. But take the case of Uber for instance: they gradually saw the benefits of accepting cash payments as they expanded into Asia and Africa. In order to win greater market shares, Uber eventually decided to take cash in Manchester, a first in Europe.

Jumia is the only African unicorn and offers similar services to Amazon, but unlike Amazon, accepts cash-on-delivery to settle purchases. In April, Amazon launched “Amazon Cash” in the US, a service that allows customers to load cash on their online account instead of linking it to a bank card. In August, this was followed by the similar Amazon Top Up in the UK. PayPal followed the trend and launched My Cash, a pre-paid cash card which enables users to load money their PayPal account.

Paying cash online
A growing number of companies are developing solutions to enable shoppers to pay cash online. PayNearMe, in the US, Barzahlen in Germany or Cashway in France allow consumers to pay bills with cash by visiting local retail partners, where the transaction is settled.

Improving the delivery of cash
Both Europe and North America have seen a decline in the number of bank branches. Some banks have resorted to innovation to ensure the delivery of cash. In the UK, banks have reached an agreement with the Post Office to offer cash services at the 11,600 branches. Likewise, India’s post offices will soon introduce additional services to attract new customers while also facilitating access to cash for senior citizens, people living in rural areas and the disabled. In north-eastern Nigeria, people have turned to Point of Sale (POS) terminals for cash. Users simply go to a shop with a POS machine, pay the merchant the amount they want to withdraw plus a commission, usually 2%. In turn, the merchant hands them the requested amount of money.

The New York City Police Department has come up with an unusual solution to fight robberies at cash machines. Instead of increasing police presence on the streets of New York, they will introduce ATMs on their premises, starting from neighbourhoods of ill repute.

Meanwhile, Sberbank, Russia’s largest bank, could start delivering cash directly from the sky as soon as the end of this year. In fact, the bank has successful tested the use of drones for the transportation of cash. In India, Grofers, an e-commerce mobile and web application, is opening a new channel for people to get cash delivered at home, by partnering with YES BANK, India’s fifth largest private bank. With this partnership, Grofers customers will be able to get banknotes delivered to their doorstep along with their grocery order for up to Rs. 2,000.

ATMs : mobile and cardless
50 years have passed since the first ATM was installed at Barclays Bank’s Enfield branch in London, on June 17, 1967. But the industry continues to innovate.

Desjardins, the leading cooperative financial group in Canada introduced the Mobile Branch, which provides members and clients access to an ATM and a confidential space to conduct transactions or speak with an advisor about products and services. In Poland, Ideal bank launched a fleet of BMW i3s fitted with ATMs cash-in, cash-out ATMs, which can be ordered by smartphone either on demand or by advanced booking. The service is particularly aimed at entrepreneurs and business owners who normally use cash deposit services, often after dark. It saves them the time and effort of making the extra journey, allowing them to focus on their business. 

Several American banks, including Wells Fargo, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase have launched cardless ATMs enabling customers to retrieve cash at the ATM without a card via their smartphone. Customers request a one-time code through the bank’s mobile app and enter it alongside with their usual PIN code at the cash machine.

In Austria, Raiffeisen uses NFC technology for contactless withdrawals with a smartphone. This new service is not only more convenient but also more secure as removing cards will prevent data theft and card skimming. Furthermore, clients have to use their fingerprint to open the app, thus adding an extra security level. 

A mobile cash centre, a connected piggy-bank and a design competition to recycle banknote waste

Three other innovations are worth mentioning but are somewhat difficult to classify.

Italian Cash Management Company Mondialpol presented the design of a mobile cash centre, which could rapidly be set up in case of a natural disaster or a crisis.

France’s, La Poste, developed a piggy bank that connects to both the parents’ and the children’s smartphone and display the total balance.

The demonetisation of 86% of currency in circulation in India is generating huge amounts of waste. To face this challenge, Kusters Engineering and the National Institute of Design jointly launched a nationwide competition to seek innovative solutions to dispose of it in a productive and environmentally-friendly way. The competition “Value of Money” invites art and design students to submit creative industrial solutions for banknote recycling.

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