Bank of England issues cashless challenge ahead of conference

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The Bank of England issued a challenge for consumers who usually pay with cash to go cashless for a week, as an educational experience prior to its upcoming conference, Future Forum 2018.

Specifically, the bank asks for consumers who usually pay with cash to convert to only pay by card or make online purchases. Conversely, the challenge also asks those consumers who are already cashless, to use only cash for a week.

The payment-switching exercise is tied into the theme of this year’s Future Forum, which is the Bank of England’s annual conference that brings together the financial community and general public to discuss the future of banking.

While the Bank of England recognizes that banknotes will continue to remain an essential payment option for some time, it also wants to prepare for the future. By issuing the cashless challenge, the governor is hoping that it will stir the conversation ahead of the conference. “I’m looking forward to hearing your questions, ideas and thoughts. Together, let’s decide the future of money,” stated Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, in the press release.

Despite the rise of contactless payment cards at the point of sale and the growth of e-commerce in the U.K., cash usage remains a major challenge for the Bank of England because it too is rising in demand when it should most likely be falling.

According to the Bank of England, there are almost £69 billion (about US$ 90 billion) in banknotes in circulation in 2018 compared to just over £56 billion (about US$ 73 billion) in 2014. The volume of individual banknotes in use has grown from 3.07 billion in circulation in 2014 to 3.63 billion in 2018, a growth of 18 percent over that time period.

In addition to governmental bodies, retailers have become increasingly interested in a cashless ecosystem to potentially improve the shopping experience and drive new sales. Disney earlier this year announced it was planning to conduct a cashless resort concept at its Animal Kingdom Lodge in Florida. Also, the Amazon Go cashier-less store concept relies on consumers using payment cards or electronic wallets to make payments, completely circumventing the use of cash.

China's Alipay recently conducted a cashless vacation trip media event to Singapore. It had invited six Chinese tourists to visit the island country so it could showcase the ability of a consumer to travel without using any cash, only relying on the ability to use Alipay to purchase meals, accommodations and plane travel. It organized a similar experience in 2017 to Finland where it hosted eight Chinese tourists for six days.

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