Australian Banks Record Declining Trend In Cash And Checks Usage

A senior executive from Australian banking major Commonwealth Bank (CBA) stated that the availability of cash in Australian banks is expected to decline in the coming years, thanks to increasing usage of digital financial channels. This will result in banks using their retail outlets to sell more complex financial products.

CBA's general manager of everyday banking and payments, Michael Baumann said that as cash usage drops, transactions involving cash will be largely done via machines and not at branches. There are already instances of that happening. Citibank stopped stocking cash at six of its Australian retail branches last year.

According to Baumann, cash will not vanish completely as small businesses would still be depositing cash but lesser number of staff would be required for handling such services.

Baumann has earlier said in an industry conference that the majority of cash transactions will soon be handled through deposit machines and ATM machines in the country.

Data for the year 2016 on payments show a drop in usage of cash and checks in the country. The report released by the Australian Payments Network shows checks declining by nearly 20 percent in 2016, the biggest decline recorded so far. Over a five-year period, usage of checks has plunged by 56 percent while ATM withdrawals are down by 22 percent.

In a statement Dr Leila Fourie, chief executive Australian Payments Network said

Looking at the payment choices that Australians make, it's clear that the vast majority of us are moving away from cash and cheques faster than ever before.

Top banks aren’t yet taking major steps towards reducing cash stocking but they are increasing installations of machines for handling cash transactions. Additionally, they are focusing on training their staff on selling complex products and services like home loans and financial planning. National Australia Bank's executive general manager of retail, Bob Melrose pointed out that customers still preferred discussing complex financial decisions in person with bank staff.

Some bank-owned operations like Westpac’s RAMS which specializes in home loans and mortgages are however already adopting a cash-less approach. Ainslie van Onselen, executive director of RAMS said that face-to-face discussions were important for customers, particularly first-home buyers but the bank wasn’t having any trouble in getting deposit amounts through digital channels.

The APN report shows that payments carried out via cards have seen a 12.3 percent jump while direct debits and credits transactions are up by 8.6 percent. The surge in digital payments has been largely fuelled by the popularity of smartphones and the online retail segment according to experts.