The end of cash: why, when and how to flick the switch


Banks may rejoice at the prospect of a cashless society, but a digital economy raises questions around identity and inclusion.

Cashless transactions are nothing new, but their share of the payments mix is growing fast. Advancing technologies, particularly the smartphone, have driven the fast growth of the digital economy and enabled an explosion of non-traditional financial solutions.

The rise of digital economy

The pace and nature of the transition differs across the world:

  • Across the European Union, account-to-account payment services are proliferating.
  • Canada, Australia and Singapore are among the nations that are licensing non-banks to initiate digital and mobile payments.
  • In Asia, China’s WeChat Pay and Alipay which mix low cost, transactional functionality with shopping and lifestyle features are leading the way.
  • In the US, checks are still widely used and only 53.5% of card transactions used modern EMV chip and pin authentication in 2018.
  • The mobile money operator (MMO) model – where consumers transfer mobile phone credit – is strong in sub-Saharan Africa, led by Kenya’s m-Pesa, which has since expanded to Afghanistan, South Africa, India, Romania and Albania.
  • In Latin America, many people remain unbanked, despite a government push toward electronic payments to curb corruption.


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