The UK Payment Systems Regulator Needs To Focus On Innovation at LINK, The UK ATM Network.

Posted on: 02/03/2017

I was very pleased to speak in February at the Westminster Business Forum event "The future for UK payments policy -infrastructure, regulation and consumer priorities."

I really enjoyed covering the issue of maintaining and enhancing Payment Choice. I, naturally, emphasized the vital  role cash has to play and how that role can be safeguarded, in the interests of both the UK economy and general Financial Inclusion.

Particularly pleasing for me was the number of questions I took from the audience. They were clearly keenly interested in the subject, which is excellent, because it is a very important issue, for all of us.

The main disappointment of the day was the contribution of Hannah Nixon, MD of the  UK  Payment Systems Regulator.

Almost as soon as Nixon starting speaking, she casually uttered the phrase "as we move towards a cashless society....".

Now, of course, any private individual is entitled to have a view as to whether the UK is moving towards "cashlessness". It is not, but who am I to argue with even misinformed individuals having free speech?

However, when Hannah Nixon speaks, she does so not as an individual exercising a democratic right to free speech. Her voice is the voice of a Regulator, which, as part of its remit, has oversight of LINK, the UK National ATM Network.

ATMs are, of course, increasingly important in the distribution of cash in the UK. Over 70% of cash in circulation is delivered via ATMs. This percentage is increasing as bank branches, which used to be a significant source of cash in the UK, disappear.

With her oversight of LINK, Hannah Nixon SHOULD be pressing for continuous innovation, to both improve public access to cash and to ensure UK ATMs start to deliver the transactions once provided by bank branches.

UK ATMs are "transaction poor" compared to even our near European neighbors, some of whose ATMs can deliver over 100 different transactions, compared to the handful usually available at their UK cousins.

The Hot Topic as far as UK ATMs are concerned is the subject of Universal Cash Deposits.

Currently, you have to find one of your own banks ATMs if you want to deposit cash and then the deposit facility is limited to notes.

The LINK ATM Network now has a transaction which allows cash deposits to be made at ANY ATM - but so far no LINK member has signed up to allow their customers to make use of this transaction.

And what has Hannah Nixon, MD of the UK Payment Systems Regulator, done about this? NOTHING.

But  why would she act to make cash easier to deposit? SHE BELIEVES THE UK IS GOING TO BECOME A CASHLESS SOCIETY.

Let me be plain. Hannah Nixon is failing in her duty of oversight of the LINK ATM Network. She is not encouraging the innovation required to meet the needs of the British public.

"Smart ATMs", delivering transactions such as cash (notes and coins) deposit and recycling, can allow the Public to carry out 99% of the transactions that once were available at thousands of bank branches. Groups of such ATMs can become "Community Financial Services Hubs", given local people throughout the UK a focal point in their neighborhood for all their financial services needs.

The Hubs would not be in bank branches, which apparently banks can no longer afford to operate. Instead, they can be located on Petrol Forecourts;in local shops or pubs; in leisure centres; in local government premises. Anywhere in the community where there is a little space available to accommodate this much-needed innovation.

This is NOT a dream. Community Financial Services Hubs can start to appear near YOU in 2017.

But it won't  happen if the MD of the Payment Systems Regulator is busy giving a ticker-tape welcome to her own dream of a cashless society. Her dream would be a nightmare for the UK public, robbing them of choice and, in doing so, undermining Financial Inclusion.

Hannah Nixon must forget her dream, in favor of meeting the needs of the UK public. Innovation by LINK is a crucial, if  Community Financial Services Hubs are to implemented speedily, in the public interest.

2017 must be a year of LINK Innovation. If , unthinkably, we reach a new year without the required innovation, we will need a new MD at the UK Payment Systems Regulator.




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