On 13 May 2021, both the FCA and HM Treasury published speeches delivered at the Which? Consumer Group Cash Summit.

FCA speech

The FCA speech is by Sheldon Mills (FCA Executive Director, Consumers and Competition) entitled Protecting access to cash and banking services.

In his speech Mr Mills briefly sets out the current state of cash use, and how it’s changing.

He notes that cash use is declining, fewer people are visiting bank branches and branches are closing as the traditional network evolves. He also draws attention to the FCA’s Financial Lives Survey in 2020 that found that 5 million adults considered that they relied on cash to a great or very great extent. These 5 million adults use cash for most of their purchases. One in seven of them, 750,000 people, self-reported to have struggled to cope, or did not cope at all with the temporary closures of cash access points and branches during the pandemic.

Mr Mills also covers in his speech what the FCA wants to see happening now to help maintain appropriate access to cash. In particular, individual firms are responsible for making sure that when they close a branch or ATM in a local area, there are alternatives available to provide services at a standard of service that meets the needs of the customers using that branch or ATM. Over the longer-term the FCA believes that new services will become available to meet the needs of consumers and businesses alike. Shared branches, cashback and deposit points might become commonplace in some areas, while more consumers embrace digital technology, and many use less cash. The FCA believes that this is a turning point for the banking market, and it does provide some opportunities for industry to find solutions to meet the challenge of maintaining access to cash.

Following on from its work last year, the FCA intends to publish an updated assessment of the UK’s cash infrastructure in the summer, alongside the FCA’s recent consumer research into cash use.

HM Treasury speech

The HM Treasury speech is the opening remarks to the summit given by John Glen MP (Economic Secretary to the Treasury).

Among other things Mr Glen states that following last year’s Call for Evidence on access to cash the Government will be launching a consultation this summer. In the consultation the Government will be setting out proposals for establishing requirements that ensure people and business can access cash withdrawal and depositing facilities, over time, within reasonable distances.