Fintech Finance presents: The Fintech Magazine 19

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Innovation where you least expect I remember attending an event organised by the UK Payment Systems Regulator (PSR), a few years ago, where a senior partner from a huge consultancy was chairing the morning’s proceedings. He wore a very expensive suit and an air of supreme confidence, keenly aware of his own authority in relation to all things innovation. The guru had almost completed his opening remarks when, with an amazed look on his face, he told us that: “Innovation goes on in the most surprising places. Why, only this morning, I even heard of an innovation in the ATM industry!” Unluckily for ‘Mr Amazed’, his audience included several genuine experts in all things ATMs. The PSR found itself buried in their complaints on social media, to the extent that, before lunch, the crestfallen guru had to return to the stage to give a shamefaced apology for being ignorant of the fact that the ATM industry is a veritable fulcrum of innovation. In fact, both ATMs and cash are benefitting from a continuous flow of it. Some small, some major, but all play their part in delivering constant improvements. During my time as CEO of Bank Machine, I saw many such small changes introduced – the most memorable, perhaps, being the introduction of Cockney as a language option on ATMs in London, which brought worldwide publicity and substantial extra business to our machines! Fast-forward to today, and there are three innovations that I’d highlight as having a positive impact on ATMs and cash in 2021 and beyond. The first is a new entrant to the UK ATM market: the Compact400, designed for retail environments. As you can see from the images opposite, this machine takes up very little space in the shop window, which is a vital consideration for retailers. The in-store footprint is also among the smallest ever for a through-the-wall ATM, and the inner


TheFintechMagazine | Issue 19

So, you think cash is dull? Ron Delnevo, Chairman of Cash and Card Consultants, would politely beg to disagree… workings of the machine include a single, uniquely-compact cash dispenser, designed specifically for retailers who wish to self-fill. A collection of small innovations brought together, like this, in one product can have a transformative impact on the market, and this ATM will certainly be transforming many shop windows in the coming months, as operator Cash On The Move, which had the ATM designed and built to its specification, installs them around the UK. Moving on to cash itself, an oft-heard complaint from the public is that too many coins accumulate in pockets and purses. Often, these coins find their way to a seemingly permanent resting place in jam jars and the like. There are seven billion 2p coins alone circulating – or contributing to the jam jar economy – on our small Island. But it’s not the 2p pieces that weigh most heavily upon us; it’s the £1 and £2 coins that threaten to make holes in our pockets and give us all arms like Turkish weightlifters. Too many coins often means too few banknotes and that is certainly the case where £1 coins are concerned. I have lost count of the number of times a shop assistant has apologised to me by saying ‘sorry! No £5 notes’, and then handed me enough metal to ballast the Queen Mary 2. Going back to my Bank Machine days, the now governor of the Bank of England, Andrew Bailey, asked me some years ago to help him get more fivers into circulation. Knowing that helping the central bank guarantees me a knighthood before the Grim Reaper calls, I instantly came up with

an innovation. Namely, £5 note-only ATMs. My own company installed around 200 of them, helping to increase the number of £5 notes in circulation by more than 1,000 per cent, from around 10 million to more than 110 million. Today, no one seems to have the appetite to fill ATMs with low-denomination banknotes, so our pockets overflow with the highest-value coins. But help is on the way, in the shape of another innovation from a company that wants to take coins off our hands –British startup Shrap, founded in 2017. It has a clear vision to build a more efficient alternative to those heavy coins. It may seem an odd time to start tackling the issue of coins; the mainstream media would have everyone believe that cash is already dead, after all. But, as of November 2020, there had, in fact, been a 10 per cent increase in the value of banknotes in circulation in the UK, from a pre-pandemic £70billion to a then-current £78billion. And, importantly for Shrap, there are at least £5billionworth of coins out there, too. Shrap aims to change this with a hybrid app/card that replicates the features of cash: it’s bearer-based, free and anonymous to use, and inclusive of all in society. Deployed at point of sale, the customer pays in cash but the merchant issues the change onto the customer’s Shrap app or card. The solution eliminates the need for businesses to maintain a float of coins, which are increasingly expensive to handle. Instead, each holds a digital float on the Shrap platform, allowing change to be issued electronically when a customer makes a cash purchase. For consumers, Shrap acts like a digital jam jar, allowing change to be stored and spent – anonymously and for free – on the platform (although the option to withdraw it to a bank account does come with a charge). Interestingly, Shrap’s model also presents a solution to one of the biggest

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