FCA’s and PSR’s joint approach to Access to Cash

The Payments System Regulator (PSR) state that ‘for many people cash continues to be a vital way of making payments, despite the changes brought about by Covid 19. As High Streets prepare to re-open, more shops will rely on the availability of cash and the ability to access banking services such as deposit facilities to be able to operate.’

Access to cash is a shared priority between HM Treasury, the Bank of England, Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Payment Systems Regulator (PSR). These bodies meet as the Joint Access to Cash Strategy (JACS) Group.

The PSR have published a statement provides an update on the approach being taken by the FCA and PSR – FCA and PSR: joint approach to Access to Cash. 

PSR Focus: Access issues during coronavirus

The PSR report that they have:

Delivered a better understanding of cash access: the PSR has developed a national map of access to cash, which identifies at a local level areas that have lost access to cash or other essential services due to temporary closures of bank branches and cash machines.

Used this information to support coordinated action: holding weekly meetings with senior stakeholders from across the industry, including banks, building societies, the Post Office, LINK and the larger independent ATM deployers. Using these meetings to share intelligence on where access problems were emerging, informed by the new mapping and working with banks and building societies to ensure access has been returned as quickly as possible.

Overseen effective communication with people and businesses: when branches have needed to close, the PSR state that they have ensured that banks and building societies clearly communicate with customers to signpost nearby alternative services, such as the Post Office. 

Focused on the needs of the vulnerable: monitoring the approach of banks and building societies to make sure that the most vulnerable people have alternative ways to access cash and other essential services, such as making in-person payments. 

Worked closely with consumer organisations: building an understanding of differing cash needs across the population, engaging with consumer organisations to gain insights during the crisis and to understand the impact on specific groups, such as the vulnerable or elderly. 

PSR’s approach to access as legislation is developed 

The PSR state that they remain committed to helping ensure that consumers and businesses who need to access and deposit cash can continue to do so.

In the longer term, the PSR believe that legislation announced in the 2020 Budget should enhance their ability to protect access to cash for those who need it in a way that works for them. 

However, before this is implemented, the PSR believe that maintaining reasonable access to cash is a shared challenge for industry and regulators.

The FCA and PSR have committed to with the industry to explore how it can provide an appropriate and sustainable model of accessing cash for example through wider use of shared services and initiatives involving local communities. 

The PSR recognise that firms may need to take decisions on their provision of cash machines and bank branches. In considering these issues, the FCA’s focus will be engaging with them on the steps they are taking to consider the impact of these decisions on consumers who need to withdraw cash, and businesses who need to deposit cash. For more on this check out Northey Point’s related blog: maintaining access to cash for customers.

The PSR state that they will continue to work with LINK, the operator of the UK’s cash machine network, to ensure that it does all that it can to protect widespread access to cash through the geographic ‘footprint’ of free-to-use cash machines. 

The PSR intend to publish a further update on their approach and their work with industry later this summer. 

The full PSR statement providing an update on the approach being taken by the FCA and PSR is available at: FCA and PSR: joint approach to Access to Cash. 

Northey Point’s Cash Manifesto

As we commentate on the topic of access to cash, engage with the industry and support the evolving regulatory approach we will base our engagement on the following eight base principles:

1: Consumers should be able to decide for themselves how they pay.

Consumers should be able to decide for themselves how they pay. For us, it is important to have a broad mix of options and that efficient methods for payment are available

Burkhard Balz, Bundesbank, Germany.

2: The issues of ‘access to cash’ and the ‘acceptability’ of cash need to be considered in tandem.

3: To preserve cash for cash sake will ultimately only serve to leave people behind.

4: All stakeholders should focus ensuring that digital payment solutions are accessible, inclusive and equitable for all in society.

5: Given that 98% people in the UK have a debit card – we must support those who have a debit card but are reluctant or feel unable to use it and seek credible solutions for the 2% who have yet to acquire a debit card.

6: The viability and sustainability of the UK’s cash supply network needs to be addressed (perhaps through the development of a utility cash supply network).

7: Ensuring a better understanding of the end user impact and economics of the ‘pay to use’ ATM network.

8: Ensuring that branch and cash facility closure communications always include details of the Current Account Switch Service (CASS).

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