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Is there a vote for improving access to cash and services with smarter fintech?

2024 is a year of multiple elections . Now the UK has been added to the list with its general election called for July 4th.

This led me to think  how much the loss of in-person banking services and the demand for better alternative solutions using new technology should be an election issue. Of course, there are bigger election issues but access to cash and financial services within local communities is a major issue that is being promoted by well-organized campaigners.

Consumer rights organisation Which monitors the closure of bank branches by the major UK banks and recently released data that showed 30 parliamentary constituencies would be branch-less by the end of 2024. By matching the loss of access to in-person banking to the contest to a community’s next MP, Which is making a powerful point in the election.

At the same time, the UK ATM operator Link has released new insights into consumer attitudes to cash with comparative data between now and when the UK last  elected a new national government in 2019. These led to some headlines about how UK consumers expected to be living in a cashless society within a few years.

But when you dig into the data, the picture is rather different. For example, more than one in two people surveyed by Link don’t expect a cashless society in their lifetime and 85% said they carried cash at least some of the time and 71% did so daily. Over five years, people’s use of cash has changed but it’s not as dramatic as some report. The number of people carrying cash has reduced by 11% and only 7% more have formed the view that there will be a cashless society.

In addition it can be no coincidence that the reported 33% reduction is ATM usage since the last election is mirrored by the reduction in the number of UKs ATMs by 30% and branches by around a half in the same period.

So, what should consumers be demanding from election candidates about policies on access to cash and  in-person financial services?

Firstly, don’t accept a response that a trend to cashless society is inevitable. It simply is not.  While banks claim branches need to be shut down because they are uneconomic to run, their profits do not seem to support this idea.

The fact is that there is available proven digital teller and self-service management software that can reduce the running costs of a branch significantly and allow them to be kept open They also can support enhanced services through how digital service banking hubs can be open longer, incorporate intuitive chatbot technology to help the less digitally savvy get what they need and even integrate secure video banking links to access remote specialist financial advice.

Secondly, ask what they will do about the alternative options like the Post Office Banking hubs. These have been rolling at much slower pace than the closure of bank branches. Even when open, the service does not match the lost branch service. There is no guarantee that you can talk to your bank’s banking professional when you need to.  Voters who are being told these hubs are the answer will be demanding improvements once they experience how restrictive the service is.

Thirdly, ask if the candidate supports new access to cash regulations to avoid services being cut without proper consultation.

All the elections held this year will address a range of big issues. In UK for one, assuring people can access financial services in their communities should at least be debated .

 

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Mark Aldred

Mark Aldred

Head of Sales

Auriga

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London

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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

Banking

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