Link sets out to protect UK cash

Despite ATM withdrawals falling 6% year on year, Link, the UK’s ATM network, is “fighting the retreat” for the 2.2m people solely reliant on coins and notes.

“We’re fighting the retreat in a rearguard action,” says Graham Mott, director of strategy at Link. “But I don’t think defeat is inevitable.”

According to Link statistics there is a 6% year on year decline for cash withdrawals at ATMs, cash accounting for 63% of all consumer payments in 2006, hitting 44% in 2016 and projected to drop to 24% by 2026.

However, Mott believes the size of the group exclusively reliant on cash remains the same.

“You have about 2.2m people who use cash almost exclusively for all their day to day payments. I don’t think that percentage is falling but fairly stable,” says Mott, adding that 97% of the non-cash dependent population still carry cash.

Mott is quoting figures from the independent Access to Cash review, commissioned by the government and praised by the payment systems regulator, responsible for maintaining the £81trn processed by UK payment systems.

Natalie Ceeney CBE, who chaired the review, said in a statement: “Cash use is falling rapidly, but digital payments don’t yet work for everyone. We need to safeguard the use of cash for those who need it, and at the same time work hard to ensure that everyone can participate in the digital economy.”

Mott suggests the 2.2m cash dependents are predominantly over-represented in the lower income groups.

“Of course, you can make payments on your phone and receive a receipt but there’s not the tactile element for those who are on a very strict budget managing every penny or with cognitive difficulties,” he says.

As part of Link’s commitment to keep access to cash for those who need it, Mott believes it starts with market control.

“By controlling the interchange price,” he says. “We’re controlling the market and making sure that everywhere that has an ATM continues to have ATMs. Over time we’ll see ATM numbers decline but we shouldn’t see the range of ATM locations decline.

“ATMs which do not have another within a kilometre are protected and their interchange figure drops and they can get subsidies. If a garage or shop decides it doesn’t want an ATM, we make sure we get another into the location,” says Mott.










(Source: Link)

Asked if Link needs to play such a proactive role, Mott believes ATMs will go the way of other utilities like pubs and garages: “The smallest disappear and the big ones get bigger as people congregate towards them.”

Instead, Mott believes that ultimately protecting cash access lies in a combination of reevaluating ATM density, partnering with retail and offering outreach programmes like mobile money vans that have operated in the highlands for years or cash by post.

“It could be that the post office or cashback are part of the solution, particularly where you have a person who would prefer a manned terminal,” he says.

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