[Dave Birch] My campaign for payments reform in Europe seems to be succeeding, albeit in a rather piecemeal fashion. I feel that my campaign to scrap the one- and two-euro cent coins must have obtained a significant boost when the 75,000 delegates to the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona discovered that the transit ticket machines do not accept them. Unfortunately, they do not accept mobile payments or mobile tickets either, so there was one of the traditional gigantic ATM queues that we associate with meetings of the world’s foremost mobile payments experts. They should probably put screens up to hide the embarrassing spectacle of the world’s foremost mobile payment experts standing in line to get cash.


This was followed, naturally, by the embarrassing spectacle of the world’s foremost mobile payments experts standing in a line to buy metro tickets.


Flying out of Barcelona on Vueling, I ordered one of the delicious in-flight snack-combo packages to reward them for accepting cards on board and I was gratified to note that they refuse to accept €100, €200 and €500 notes. Hurrah for them. There is no need whatsoever to print these notes and they should be withdrawn from circulation forthwith, if not sooner.

These are small signs of change, but they all count, and set me to thinking what other strings I might add to the cashlessness bow in addition to improving efficiency, reducing business costs and raising the costs of money laundering and tax evasion. This, naturally, led me to think about corruption. I thought it was illustrative that an electronic payments initiative in the Philippines was reported primarily as a corruption management tool rather than as a cost-saving or efficiency tool, even though it will undoubtedly help on both of those fronts.

Another tool to eliminate bribery and theft in government transactions with citizens, be they individuals or corporations, is within reach. Last week, the Department of Budget and Management launched a system through which government agencies can buy supplies online without using cash… The e-payment system “effectively brings us to the realm of cashless transactions, where procurement activities can be tracked and accounted for very quickly and accurately.”

[From ‘Cashless’ payments | Inquirer Opinion]

With all of these strings there to be played in harmony by a united electronic payments industry with a moral vision to make substantial reductions in the total social costs of payments in the not-too-distant future, surely the cashlessness future must be close. Like biorhythms aligning as their natural cycles come together, the combination of social, business and technical drivers for cashlessness are finally reinforcing. We have the technology to get rid of cash — the mobile phone. We have the business models to make stakeholders want to do it — “big data” and “small data”. We have the social pressures for it to happen soon — a European public fed up with tax evasion, crime and corruption. At last.

In our history as a species, we’ve survived longer without cash than with it. Physical currency has only been around for a couple thousand years. We would, in effect, be returning to a cashless society.

[From The Less-Cash Society | Snarketing 2.0]

I find myself going into London for the day with no cash in my pocket and not caring any more. Does this mean anything? Whether we are creating a cashless society or returning to one, the point is that there are signs that the inflexion point is near. Isn’t it?

But like forecasts of flying cars, predictions of a cashless future have a history of failure.

[From BBC News – Killing off cash: Could new tech mean the end of money?]

Indeed they do, and it might be interesting to learn why, so I’ve invited Professor Bernado Batiz-Lazo, Professor of Business History and Bank Management at the Bangor Business School to come along to this year’s Tomorrow’s Transactions Forum in London on the 13th and 14th March to give a talk based on his paper on the “Paleofuture of Cashlessness” which covers just this ground. If you want a preview, you can listen to the podcast that I recorded with Bernado after reading his excellent paper last year.

These are personal opinions and should not be misunderstood as representing the opinions of 
Consult Hyperion or any of its clients or suppliers

1 comment

  1. Good evening,

    although, I wouldn’t oppose the cashless society, I find it much more easy to first go to a banknoteless one!. You can see all of the idea, briefly at http://bponline.amcham.gr/?p=2099 and f,ully presented at gobanknoteless.wordpress.com.
    I would very much welcome any comments.
    Thank you

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