IDEX executive says biometrics key to access as growth of digital payments causes fear

The prospect of a cashless society is causing concern after a report suggested it could leave some communities behind, the BBC reports.

The Access to Cash report was led by former UK financial ombudsman Natalie Ceeney and sponsored by ATM network operator Link, and concludes that a cashless society would disadvantage rural communities with poor connectivity, people who struggle to use digital services due to physical or mental health problems, people with high debt levels attempting to budget their spending, and those in difficult or abusive relationships. It could reportedly also drive up prices for those unable to benefit from online services or direct debits.

British Retail Consortium stats indicate that the use of cash has fallen from a nearly 60 percent share of retail transactions in 2013 to just over 40 percent in 2017, falling behind debit cards as the most popular for of payment.

“As cash use continues to fall, we need to safeguard the use of cash for those who need it, and at the same time work hard to ensure that everyone can participate in this digital economy,” comments Ceeney.

The report found that approximately 8 million people (17 percent) require access to cash. It also found that cash payments have halved over the last ten years and forecasts that they will drop by half again over the next decade, with only one in ten payments made with cash in 15 years.

Industry group UK Finance, on the other hand, says that although its own research shows cash use declining, it is still expected to be the second most popular payment option in ten years time.

Australia could be cash-free within three years, according to the Sydney Morning Herald. University of New South Wales Economics Professor Richard Holden says it could be, and Australian Reserve Bank Governor Philip Lowe says the country is at a turning point, and that cash will soon be a niche payment option.

The country’s digital infrastructure and penetration of cashless system are among the most advanced in the world, according to Holden, and he believes facial and fingerprint biometrics will address fraud concerns. The Herald reports that charities fear a collapse of donations to society’s most vulnerable, which often come in the form of coins and notes.

A decade ago, 69 percent of Australian household spending was paid for in cash, but that number has fallen to just over half as much (37 percent).

In an emailed statement, IDEX Biometrics Senior Vice President David Orme said that the Access to Cash report is a reminder of the need for banks to do more to extend the benefits of cashless payments to all.

“The adoption of biometric enabled payment cards could be just one way of bridging the gap to financial inclusion through removing the barriers that face those living with dementia or literacy challenges,” Orme writes. “With the use of biometrics, payment card authentication will no longer be about what you know, or what you can remember, but who you are. This will also offer those suffering from physical health challenges a simpler and easier way of authenticating payments—rather than having to enter in a pin number, transactions will be authenticated with the simple touch of a finger.

“Biometrics companies are already working alongside card manufacturers and financial institutions in order to combat this issue and rapid advances in technology mean that biometrics is set to make a real impact on financial inclusion over the next couple of years,” he argues, noting the increased accessibility provided by home enrollment systems.

“Now is the time to elevate the traditional payment card and evolve authentication methods to make contactless transactions even more convenient and available to all.”

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