New “banking hubs” among the programs being tested to improve access to cash

New programs testing ways to increase access to cash in communities, which could potentially be rolled out more widely across the UK, went live today.

A “new model of street banking” is among the initiatives tested, involving collaboration between the post office and street banks to help bring back local banking services.

ATM and bank branch closures, as well as the impact of the coronavirus, have raised concerns about the future of cash, though the UK government is considering legislating to protect it.

The sites involved in the Community Access to Cash Pilots (CACP) programs in Scotland are: Cambuslang (South Lanarkshire) and Denny (Falkirk).

Each community is experimenting with different initiatives. In Cambuslang, new post office “banking hubs” have been set up, with dedicated rooms where customers can see their own bank staff.

The hubs will provide access to basic banking services and cash withdrawals and deposits through a post-operated kiosk, offering face-to-face banking services, provided by the banks with the most customers in each area.

In addition to banking hubs, other pilot initiatives include widespread cash back rewards at local stores, restaurants and pubs, new free ATMs, and digital education services.

The lockdown restrictions have caused delays on some items of the pilots uploaded and as many stores have been closed, program officials said.

Recent research from the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) found that during the pandemic, 15% of UK adults struggled to cope without access to bank branches and ATMs, while 16% suffered as a result of more and more companies have stopped or encouraged customers to use contactless or digital. Payments.

Research suggests that five million people remain dependent on cash.

The pilots are testing solutions that could be deployed more widely in the UK. They will run until October before reporting their findings.

The CACP program is chaired by Natalie Ceeney, who edited Access to Cash Review.

She said: “Many more people are shopping online and are now using digital or contactless payments, even for items they would have paid for in cash before the pandemic.

“However, cash remains critically important, not only as a backup when payment systems go down, but for millions of people who cannot use digital payments, have no coverage. broadband or reliable mobile, or just can’t afford or don’t have access to the broader banking services that many of us take for granted.

“I can’t wait to see the results of the pilots, but we urgently need the government to release its promised next steps to protect access to cash, so that, if these pilots are successful, they can be deployed instead. that closed, ”she said. added.

Nick Read, Managing Director of Post Office, said: “Banking hubs are an exciting expansion of our role in securing a sustainable future for cash, as well as providing broader financial services in partnership with banks. . “

Barclays UK Managing Director Matt Hammerstein said: “We look forward to seeing the results of these pilot projects to help us continue to provide sustainable access to banking and cash to all who need it. “

Federation of Small Business National Vice President Martin McTague said: “We have always said that banking hubs, operated in close collaboration with the Post, will be an important part of accessing cash in the future. , and it’s good to see more innovations being experienced alongside them.

“That said, when it comes to buy-free cashback, we need to avoid a situation where small businesses would have to function effectively as an ATM without any cash incentive to cover the additional administration and security that this entails.”

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