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The Endgame of “Financial Inclusion” Part 4: Cashless Society on your doorstep

The vision of a cashless society was enthusiastically predicted many years ago by governments, academics and bankers. It is no longer a “conspiracy theory” that we heading for a cashless society. When I started drafting and researching this article, back in 2017, I find myself repeatedly having to catch up as the move to a cashless society was rapidly changing through news, even the main stream media here in the UK started producing documentaries and special reports on news channels. It is not surprising really when you have the likes of the World Bank committing to Universal Financial Access by 2020.

Take the following news items for instance:

UK Is Third Most Cashless Country – What Does The Future Hold? - Are we a cashless society? In the last years alone we have made astonishing progress towards cashless, and some may say that some countries have already stopped using cash. The United Kingdom, for example, is considered one of the most cashless places in the world, generally ranked in 3rd position after Canada and Sweden. Although it is very complex to asses with accuracy how ‘cashless’ a country really is, it’s evident that for the UK, cash is a relic of the past. But is it really?

MasterCard tracks global 'cashless journey' - MasterCard (NYSE: MA) today (23 September 2013) unveiled a new global report, "The Cashless Journey," that tracks how 33 major economies are progressing from cash-based to cashless societies. The report, produced by MasterCard Advisors, identifies new technologies, government programs and consumer preferences as key factors that are driving this shift, creating more productive and inclusive economies.

The world's most cashless countries - The cashless society is in full swing. Certain start-ups threaten to make ATMs obsolete, Apple's making a big bet on mobile payments, and American Express' CEO even declared that he doesn't fear the potential demise of plastic. Current trends seemingly point to a future with increasingly less cash floating around. For certain countries, however, that future is close to becoming a reality, as a number of nations have shifted almost entirely toward nonphysical payment. Based on the rate of cash-free transactions and the percent of the population that relies on a debit card, here is a look at the 10 countries leading the pack toward a nearly cashless economy. - Nicholas Duva, special to Posted 21 November 2014 Source: MasterCard "Cashless Journey" Report.

Visa to Help U.S. Small Businesses Go Cashless - To encourage businesses to go cashless, Visa is announcing The Visa Cashless Challenge, with a call to action for small business restaurants, cafés or food truck owners to describe what cashless means for them, their employees and customers. Visa will be awarding up to $500,000 to 50 eligible US-based small business food service owners who commit to joining the 100% cashless quest.

Nasdaq: 3 Ways To Profit From A Cashless Society - They're coming for your money... And whether you like it or not, they're going to get it. Worse, there's nothing you can do about it. The federal government is going after criminals that use large bills for illicit activities like selling drugs and funding global terrorism. To do this, they're going to eliminate cash. And much sooner than anyone expects.

Bloomberg (2016): Inside the Secret Meeting Where Wall Street Tested Digital Cash - On a recent Monday in April (2016), more than 100 executives from some of the world’s largest financial institutions gathered for a private meeting at the Times Square office of Nasdaq Inc. They weren’t there to just talk about blockchain, the new technology some predict will transform finance, but to build and experiment with the software. By the end of the day, they had seen something revolutionary: U.S. dollars transformed into pure digital assets, able to be used to execute and settle a trade instantly. That’s the promise of a blockchain, where the cumbersome and error-prone system that takes days to move money across town or around the world is replaced with almost instant certainty. The event was created by Chain, one of many startups trying to rewire the financial industry, with representatives from Nasdaq, Citigroup Inc., Visa Inc., Fidelity, Fiserv Inc., Pfizer Inc. and others in the room. The event--announced in a statement this Monday--marked a key moment in the evolution of blockchain, notable both for what was achieved, as well as how many firms were involved. The technology’s potential has captivated Wall Street executives because it offers a way to free up billions of dollars by speeding transactions that currently can take days, tying up capital. But a huge piece of that puzzle is transforming cash into a digital form. And while some firms have conducted experiments, the Chain event showed a large number of them are now looking jointly at a potential solution.

Why Governments Want to Eliminate Cash - The European Central Bank is not alone in this recent "war" on cash. An ex-banking chief in the U.K. has called for a a ban on £50 notes in order to "tackle terrorism," and a former CEO of standard Chartered Bank Peter Sands has gone on the record calling for the $100 bill to be scrapped in America.

Tossed opens the UK's first entirely cashless restaurant - Healthy high street food chain Tossed has today opened what is thought to be the UK's first completely cashless restaurant.

BBC makes Cashless Street the focus for contactless - Back in June 2014, we turned this street of independent traders cashless for the day to test if shoppers and traders were ready to dump notes and coins. The results showed that retailers reported an increase in takings across the board and consumers liked the convenience of the cashless transaction.

Amazon Go store lets shoppers pick up goods and walk out - Amazon has opened a corner store where customers can pick up their groceries and just walk out without having to queue up and pay at the checkout. The company said shoppers at its Amazon Go store will have the cost of their purchases automatically billed to their Amazon Prime account. Sensors will track customers as they go about the store and record items they pick up.

Starbucks tests cashless store as more customers buy coffee with their phones - No cash, no problem. At least at one Starbucks location in Seattle. The coffee giant is testing a cashless store "just to see" how digital and credit card payments affect customer behavior and experience at the restaurant.

Alibaba demonstrates face recognition system at cashier-less concept café - Using Alibaba’s AI and data technologies, Tao Café invited customers to shop at the offline store without having to wait in queues to pay for drinks or food. The café had a few employees on hand to prepare the food and drinks, however, no cashiers were required as all transactions were done digitally. A customer could walk up to the counter and order an Americano, which prompted the system to scan her face through the screen and withdraw the price of the coffee from her Alipay account.

Widow faces federal charges because she deposited inheritance money in lumps - A widow’s bank account was seized by the IRS and she now faces criminal charges for depositing her legal inheritance money in lumps instead of all together. Janet Malone, 68, had $18,775 seized from her — money that was legally earned and was legally bestowed to her by her late husband, Ronald Malone. The problem, according to the government, was the fact that she deposited it in several lumps instead of all at once.

Student Suspended for Refusing to Wear RFID Chip Returns to School - A Texas girl suspended for refusing to wear a student ID card implanted with a radio-frequency identification chip is being re-admitted to her former high school where fall classes begin Monday, her lawyers said today.

America too paranoid to go Cashless-2016 - One of the clearest signs Americans are using cash less is the rise of mobile payments. Take Venmo, one of the fastest-growing apps of the last couple of years, since PayPal acquired it in 2013. It jumped from handling $7.5 billion last year to an anticipated $20 billion this year. Venmo's head of product, Ben Mills, says the company sees itself playing a "huge role" in the move toward a cashless economy.

In The Rush Toward A Cashless Society, The Poorest Are At Risk Of Further Exclusion - Proponents of a shift away from cash often point to Kenya or Sweden as proof that such a transition can happen without further disadvantaging the poor. In Sweden, which is on track to be the world’s first cashless society, a magazine called Situation Stockholm has equipped its homeless sellers with credit card readers. And M-Pesa, a mobile money service first rolled out in Kenya, has 30 million subscribers and has been credited with raising 2 percent of Kenyan households out of extreme poverty.

CNBC (2018) Ecobank – A leader in delivering a cashless Africa - Millions more people in Africa now have access to financial systems thanks to cashless systems using digital technology, and more and more people are seeing the benefits of mobile banking, according to Ecobank (, the leading independent pan-African banking group. Ecobank has spearheaded the development of cashless payment systems in Africa through its mobile app and other products. Africa is now at the forefront of fintech with 57.6% of the world’s 174 million active registered mobile money accounts (100.1 million) in Sub-Saharan Africa. Fintech in Africa is predicted to grow from US$ 200 million to US$ 3 billion by 2020.

It is interesting that Ecobank Transnational Incorporated (ETI), a public limited liability company, was established as a bank holding company in 1985 under a private sector initiative, is now proposing to achieve Universal Financial Access by 2020.

UK: Now (Dec 2017) two bank branches are shutting every day in a devastating blow for vulnerable customers and small firms - At least 800 bank branches have been shut down this year – at a rate of more than two a day. The closures, which are devastating for smaller towns and villages, have been led by Barclays, Lloyds, HSBC, Santander and Natwest owner RBS.

UK could lose 30,000 free cash machines in five years amid fees shake-up - Campaigners are warning the planned shake-up of the ATM network could leave people struggling to access their cash. Up to 30,000 free-to-use cash machines - 45% of the UK total - are on course to disappear over the next five years amid cuts in fees received by operators, it is being claimed. According to the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA), changes to the so-called interchange fees - charges paid to operators by banks per withdrawal - being imposed by the LINK network will cut access to cash at a time when banks are shutting more branches.

America's biggest banks are closing hundreds of branches - "Digital technology is making large brick and mortar branches questionable," said Harit Talwar, head of Digital Finance at Goldman Sachs, in a podcast. "You don't need necessarily brick and mortar branch networks to get into consumer financial services. Why wait in line when I can do it in on the phone? The traditional distribution strengths that some of the large banks have, from distribution strengths have become legacy costs."

Say goodbye to your neighborhood bank branch - While the number of branches per capita remained unchanged in the United States from 2004 to 2014, it dropped 30 percent in Nordic countries, 22 percent in East Asia and the Pacific and 17 percent in the Euro zone, according to World Bank and Citi data. The number of branches per capita rose 26 percent in Latin American and the Caribbean.

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