As bank branches continue to close in the UK and more people turn to digital financial services, access to cash is becoming an increasingly important issue. A study conducted by University of Bristol found one in ten UK Post Offices has been affected by a bank closure within 1km, and this has resulted in a 27 per cent rise in demand for cash deposit services.
Digitalisation has driven improvements in many areas of daily life, and it is often taken for granted that a cashless economy would be beneficial for all segments of society. But what are the actual drawbacks and how can banks re-invent their branches to service everyone in the community, especially those who rely on cash?
This is a question that Auriga recently covered in the latest Branch Transformation Conference from RBR. The convenience of bank branches is an important factor to consider, particularly for rural communities and the elderly. Considering the widespread acceptability, ease of use, safety and anonymity, a physical location allows people access to cash, make deposits, and conduct other financial transactions in person. For many, this is a quick and convenient way to manage their finances. However, as bank branches close, consumers may have to travel further distances to access these services, which can be difficult and time-consuming.
This can be especially challenging for those who do not have access to a car or live in an area with limited public transportation. In addition, bank branches often have shorter operating hours than other types of businesses, so people may need to rearrange their schedules to visit during open hours. The closure of branches can therefore have a negative impact on the convenience of accessing cash for some individuals. To protect the UK’s future cash system, cashback without a purchase could be widely available from retailers of all sizes in local communities across the UK according to government proposals.
Financial inclusion is another factor to consider. To achieve this, access to cash is essential, particularly for those who do not have a bank account or a debit card. These individuals may rely on cash for daily transactions and may be disproportionately affected by the closure of bank branches. Consumers need access to traditional services, but this has to be delivered in ways that maximise staff efficiencies, allowing them to focus on delivering higher value services.
What are the business strategies banks can implement to protect access to cash?
- Branch Automation – Advances in self-service banking technology can give a community the confidence to conduct their financial transactions effectively and efficiently. The ability to customise modern ATMs to offer additional services, from paying a bill to doing a live video call with a financial product specialist, also allows cash access to be subsidised, even 24/7. With Bank4Me, the bank can benefit from an advanced solution to transform its traditional branch and can strategically redesign its spaces and its service model, starting from the actual needs of its customers, without giving up the quality of the face-to-face human relationship.
- As-a-Service model – Managing ATM networks using Auriga’s “ATM-as-a-service” or even “Branch-as-a-Service” enables banks to leverage new technologies and approaches in ATM and branch operations at a reduced cost and within a shorter timeframe. As an example, Auriga’s ATM-as-a-service solution has been chosen by Batopin, the Belgian ATM optimisation initiative. Batopin’s fleet is fully managed by Auriga, providing complete end-to-end management of the new ATM network. This includes software development, management, maintenance, security, and other managed services. In addition to comprehensive monitoring of the ATMs, transaction processing, cash and asset management. To protect the new network, there will be an advanced state-of-the-art ATM security solution as well as a full incident management system.
- Shared Infrastructure – The Cash Action Group, Post Office and other stakeholders are to be congratulated on their shared hub initiative. They are seen as a potential solution to the steady stream of bank branch and ATM closures, customers of any bank can use the hubs to access their accounts, deposit cash and cheques and withdraw money. However, the pace of roll-out and the one size fits all approach means that consumers of financial services, including cash, continue to lose access to them. Auriga’s Bank4Me brings the services of a full branch to one room. It offers the opportunity of a targeted investment and a strategy based on asset reuse and scalability: the bank can choose a location for transactions or advice only. It can be in high traffic or outside urban areas, both as support to retail operations and as an unstaffed, possibly mobile, office.
To learn more about how best to modernise customer experiences inside and outside branches, watch Mark Aldred from Auriga at RBR BT22.
Overall, access to cash is important for convenience, financial inclusion, and the well-being of individuals and communities. As bank branches continue to shut, it is important to consider the impact on those who rely on traditional payment methods and to ensure that alternative methods of accessing cash are made available. Luckily, the needed technology is here to enable banks and ATM operators to maintain efficient and omnichannel next-generation branches to address this issue.