Building on the work and findings of the Ceeney Review, UK Finance has announced the banking and finance industry’s commitment to helping local communities to identify and secure appropriate free access to cash for customers.

Despite consumers and small businesses increasingly choosing to make and accept payments via card or with their mobile phone, cash remains the second most frequently used payment method in the UK. According to UK Finance’s latest Payment Markets report2, cash was used for 28 per cent of payments in 2018 and is forecast to be used for one in ten payments in a decade’s time driven by the growth in contactless and mobile payments.

UK Finance is currently working with the recently established Joint Authorities Cash Strategy Group (JACS) 3 to help ensure cash continues to be available to those who need it. More detailed work is required to understand the future cash needs of local communities, in particular, remote rural and urban deprived communities, and to design a system which addresses how those community needs can best be served quickly and efficiently, should a problem emerge.

Over the summer UK Finance will engage with consumer representatives, local authority representatives and market participants, including LINK and its members, to:

  • map the range of channels through which consumers can access cash (e.g. bank and building society networks; post office, ATMs, merchant cashback, etc);
  • consider the potential of a number of industry pilots already underway to deliver new options for cash provision;
  • develop an approach for how industry could work with local authorities to help communities to identify and report gaps in cash provision;
  • develop a definition of industry’s commitment to customers and communities in terms of the “appropriate provision for free access to cash”;
  • consider how this new approach could involve the creation of an independent body with responsibility for responding to access to cash representations and coordinating and facilitating appropriate industry action; and
  • work with LINK, the Post Office and the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR) to identify ways in which the existing commitments4and delivery against them, can be developed and improved.

UK Finance will continue to work closely with the PSR, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), Bank of England and government as they take forward their work in this area.

Stephen Jones, Chief Executive of UK Finance, said “Securing free access to cash for those who continue to need to use it is a clear shared objective – and one that government, regulators, industry, customer groups and communities need to come together to solve. We need to take a collaborative approach to the problem and work out a shared solution. Today the banking and finance industry is setting out a clear statement of intent and a series of practical next steps to ensure that cash will remain widely accessible and free for those that need it to help manage their finances and pay for goods and services.”

Natalie Ceeney CBE, Chair, Access to Cash Review said “UK Finance’s announcement today, to explore how industry could secure the right level of free access to cash, should be applauded. The acknowledgment from the UK’s major banks that the UK public will continue to need free access to cash is, in itself, hugely welcome. We need to take action urgently, and the commitment to reaching conclusions quickly is welcome. Digital payments don’t yet work for everyone, and millions will be left behind if we don’t preserve free access to cash, and support businesses to keep accepting cash.  I look forward to seeing action taken, and to the banking and finance industry, working with government, regulators and other sectors, doing the right thing for consumers and communities.”

City Minister, John Glen, said “While technology is transforming how we manage our finances, for many cash remains a vital part of their day-to-day spending. This is why I recently announced that we’ll be protecting the future of cash, co-ordinating work across government and industry, and pushing for further action to ensure continued access. UK Finance’s upcoming work in this area is therefore extremely welcome. It will help us to build on these efforts, support communities up and down the country and provide choice over how they spend their money.”

UK Finance will publish an update and progress report on the above by 30 September 2019.