Chris Hemsley's speech at Which?'s Cash Summit - 12 June 2019

12/06/2019

This is the text of the speech as drafted and may differ from the delivered version.


Good afternoon and thank you for inviting me to speak to you all today on this important subject, and the role that the Payment Systems Regulator will play in protecting everyone’s ability to choose to use cash, for so long as they want to.
 
This afternoon I am going to focus on three particular aspects of our work: 
  • First – How we are protecting everyone’s access to cash today – through the main way we currently obtain cash – ATMs; 
  • Second – What we are doing to support people’s ability to continue to use cash in future; and
  • Third – How you can help us with our work. 

Introduction

But I would like to start with a few observations about where we – as a society – are in terms of cash use.
 
In one form or another, cash has been an important way for people to pay for things for centuries. But, over the last few years, we’ve seen people choose to pay for things in different ways – whether by cards or, more recently, digital payments mobile phones and even watches. This is prompting a debate about the role of cash and raises important policy issues – for regulators, government and society more generally. 
 
It has also prompted me to consider my own use of cash over the years.
 
I used to take out my weekly budget in cash, and that had to see me through the week. But, over time, my use of cards and internet banking has grown. And I can now go days without using cash – relying on my mobile phone to allow me to get around London, buy lunch and other incidental purchases.
 
But I still carry cash, and use an ATM most weeks. When I go somewhere new I rely on the reassurance that holding cash brings, while for some types of payments – to school fayres, sports clubs and collections at work – cash is still king.
 
And my own experience resonates with what we see across the UK. Yes, cash use is declining – more payments are being made by debit card than by cash, and there is a striking growth of contactless payments. 
 
But our own research shows that 80% of people have used cash in the last week. So, while many of us are choosing to use less cash, and an increasing majority prefer to use other methods, it remains an important part of most of our lives. And, when it comes to where we get that cash. The answer is pretty straight-forward: for the vast majority it is a free-to-use cash machine. UK Finance figures show that nearly 80% of cash acquired by businesses and consumers was through an ATM. 
 
And the UK is better served by those cash machines than it has been in the past. We have more ATMs now than 10 years ago, and more of them are Free-to-Use. But in the last couple of years we have seen this increase in free-to-use ATMs stall and now start to fall. This follows the general reduction in the use of cash, as many of us make greater use of electronic payments. But this reduction in the use of cash is unlikely to be uniform, and shines a light on the fact that some communities – people and businesses – rely on cash, but find it difficult to access it easily. 
 
This often con