The Shift to a Cashless Society is Snowballing
Love it or hate it, cash is playing an increasingly less important role in society.
In some ways this is great news for consumers. The rise of mobile and electronic payments means faster, convenient, and more efficient purchases in most instances. New technologies are being built and improved to facilitate these transactions, and improving security is also a priority for many payment providers.
However, there is also a darker side in the shift to a cashless society. Governments and central banks have a different rationale behind the elimination of cash transactions, and as a result, the so-called “war on cash” is on.
On the Path to a Cashless Society
The Federal Reserve estimates that there will be $616.9 billion in cashless transactions in 2016. That’s up from around $60 billion in 2010.
Despite the magnitude of this overall shift, what is happening from country to country varies quite considerably. Consider the contradicting evidence between Sweden and Germany.
In Sweden, about 59% of all consumer transactions are cashless, and hard currency makes up just 2% of the economy. Yet, across the Baltic Sea, Germans are far bigger proponents of modern cash. This should not be too surprising, considering that the German words for “debt” and “guilt” are the exact same.
Within Germany, only 33% of consumer transactions are cashless, and there are only 0.06 credit cards in existence per person.
The Dark Side of Cashless
The shift to a cashless society is even gaining momentum in Germany, but it is not because of the willing adoption from the general public. According to Handelsblatt, a leading German business newspaper, a proposal to eliminate the €500 note while capping all cash transactions at €5,000 was made in February by the junior partner of the coalition government.
Governments have been increasingly pushing for a cashless society. Ostensibly, by having a paper trail for all transactions, such a move would decrease crime, money laundering, and tax evasion. France’s finance minister recently stated that he would “fight against the use of cash and anonymity in the French economy” in order to prevent terrorism and other threats. Meanwhile, former Secretary of the Treasury and economist Larry Summers has called for scrapping the U.S. $100 bill – the most widely used currency note in the world.
“Smoother” Aggregate Demand?
It’s not simply an argument of the above government rationale versus that of privacy and anonymity. Perhaps the least talked-about implication of a cashless society is the way that it could potentially empower central banking to have more ammunition in “smoothing” out the way people save and spend money.
By eliminating the prospect of cash savings, monetary policy options like negative interest rates would be much more effective if implemented. All money would presumably be stored under the same banking system umbrella, and even the most prudent savers could be taxed with negative rates to encourage consumer spending.
While there are certainly benefits to using digital payments, our view is that going digital should be an individual consumer choice that can be based on personal benefits and drawbacks. People should have the voluntary choice of going plastic or using apps for payment, but they shouldn’t be pushed into either option unwillingly.
Forced banishment of cash is a completely different thing, and we should be increasingly wary and suspicious of the real rationale behind such a scheme.
Visualizing the Importance of Trust to the Banking Industry
In the digital age, the issue of trust is emerging as the game-changing factor in how consumers choose financial services brands.
Visualizing the Importance of Trust to the Banking Industry
In the digital age, money is becoming less tangible.
Not only is carrying physical cash more of a rarity, but we are now able to even make contactless payments for many of the products and services we use on the fly.
Our financial transactions are starting to be analyzed and optimized by artificial intelligence. Meanwhile, investments and bills are paid online, and even checks can now be deposited through our phones. Who has the time to visit a physical bank these days, anyways?
Trust in the Digital Age
The migration of financial services to the cloud is increasing access to banking solutions, while breaking down barriers of entry to the industry. It’s also creating opportunities for new service offerings that can leverage technology, data, and scale.
However, as today’s infographic from Raconteur shows, this digital migration has a crucial side effect: trust in financial services has emerged as a dominant driver of consumer activity.
This likely boils down to a couple major factors:
Financial services are becoming less grounded in physical experiences (using cash, visiting a branch, personal relationships, etc.)
- Personal Data
Consumers are rightfully concerned about how personal data gets treated in the digital age
Further, the above factors are compounded by memories of the 2008 Financial Crisis. These events not only damaged institutional reputations, but they elevated trust to become a key concern and selling point for consumers.
Trust, by the Numbers
In general, trust in banks has been slowly on the rise since hitting a low point in 2011 and 2012.
At the same time, consumers are consistently ranking trust as a more important factor in their decision of where to bank. To the modern consumer, trust even outweighs price.
Top Five Factors for Choosing a Bank:
- Ease and convenience of service (47%)
- Trust with the brand (45%)
- Price/rate (43%)
- Service resolution quality and timeliness (43%)
- Wide network coverage of ATMs (40%)
It’s important to recognize here that all five of the above factors rank quite closely in percentage terms. That said, while they are all crucial elements to a service offering, trust may be the most abstract one to try and tackle for companies in the space.
With this in mind, how can financial services leverage tech to increase the amount of trust that consumers have in them?
Tech Factors That Would Increase Consumer Trust:
- Reliable fraud protection (36%)
- Technology solves my problems (13%)
- Useful mobile application (9%)
Better fraud protection capability stands out as one major trust-builder, while designing technology that is useful and effective is another key area to consider.
Visualizing the Future of Banking Talent
Banking talent is undergoing a fundamental shift. This infographic explores how banks are adapting to rapid automation and digitization in the industry.
Visualizing the Future of Banking Talent
View the full-size version of the infographic by clicking here
Many organizations say that their greatest asset is their people. In fact, Richard Branson has famously stated that employees come first at Virgin, ranking ahead of customers and shareholders. So, how do businesses effectively manage this talent to drive success?
This question is top of mind for many bank CEOs. As processes become increasingly automated and digitized, the composition of banking talent is changing – and banks will need to become adept at hitting a moving target.
Six Ways Banks are Becoming Talent-First
Today’s infographic comes from McKinsey & Company, and it explores six ways banks are becoming talent-first organizations:
1. They understand future talent requirements.
43% of all bank working hours can be automated with current technologies.
Consequently, talent requirements are shifting from basic cognitive skills to socio-emotional and technological skills. Banks will need to analyze where they have long-term gaps and develop a plan to close them.
2. They identify critical roles and manage talent accordingly.
It is estimated that just 50 key roles drive 80% of bank business value. Banks will need to identify these roles based on data rather than traditional hierarchy. In fact, 90% of critical talent is missed when organizations only focus at the top.
Then, banks must match the best performers to these roles and actively manage their development.
3. They adopt an agile business model.
Banks will need to shift from a hierarchical structure to an agile one, where leadership enables networks of teams to achieve their missions. As opportunities come and go, teams are reallocated accordingly.
This flexible structure has many potential benefits, including fewer product defects, lower costs, shorter time-to-market, increases in customer satisfaction, and a bump in employee engagement.
4. They use data to make people decisions.
Instead of making decisions based on subjective biases or customary practices, banks will need to rely on the power of data to:
For example, company data can be used to develop a heatmap of the roles with the highest attrition rates. Leaders can then focus their retention efforts accordingly.
5. They focus on inclusion and diversity.
Gender and ethnicity diversification leads to higher financial performance, better decision making, higher employee satisfaction, and an enhanced company image.
Industry-leading banks will set measurable diversity goals, and re-evaluate all processes to expose unconscious biases. For example, one organization saw 15% more women pass resume screening when they automated the process.
6. They ensure the board is focused on talent.
Only 5% of corporate directors believe they are effective at developing talent.
To be successful, boards will need to recognize Human Resources (HR) as a strategic partner rather than as a primarily transactional function. The CEO, CFO, and CHRO (Chief Human Resources Officer) form a group of three that makes major decisions on human and financial capital allocation.
CEOs worldwide see human capital as a top challenge, and yet they rank HR as only the eighth or ninth most important function in a business. Clearly, this is a disconnect that needs to be addressed. To keep up with rapid change, banks will need to bring HR to the forefront – or risk being left behind.
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