There's comfort in cash
I am departing shortly on another road trip — this time, a two-day drive from Boulder, Colorado, to Los Angeles. I make the trip several times a year. Apart from spending time with vendors, I will catch up with the founder of InkaBinka, a company in which I have a small investment.
The InkaBinka app distills news stories to four bullet points and a half-page visual. Its design center serves up news in a concise and readable form to smartphones of patrons waiting in line at Starbucks for their morning latte. The natural language processing is quite remarkable — it's how I came to like the product.
The smartphone has really come to dominate nearly every discussion involving technology. My iPhone is never far from my hand and, when I shop, I am fed a constant stream of promotional material as I walk from counter to counter. Yet I am not someone who relies on my smartphone to make payments.
For me it's still very much a case of using my business credit card or my personal debit card. In a retail store, I normally use cash only for small transactions, when I am in a hurry, or when I purchase a gift or a card for my wife — no need for it to show up too early on the statement and ruin the surprise.
I don't leave home without cash, particularly when it involves winter driving. On more than one occasion when the power was down, the likes of McDonalds and even Starbucks did not accept cards, and I needed to eat!
Looking at my travel wallet only a moment ago, I noted a healthy supply of U.S. dollars and an equal amount in British pounds and euros, together with a smaller number of Australian dollars. I never cash in foreign bank notes as I depart a country, as I always expect to be back.
I treat cash as my fallback "reserve" that is easily accessible in an emergency. As anyone who has watched Jason Bourne movies knows, there's a lot of flexibility available to those with cash.
Next week, the ATMIA US Conference 2017 will take place in Orlando, Florida. Looking at the conference agenda, what jumps off the page is a consistent theme of cash and our ongoing reliance on cash:
On Tuesday, there's workshop No. 1 — "Retail Cash Management: Smart Safes & Recyclers." A description of the workshop follows:
Cash has a long-term future in retail business. Despite the long-standing claims and forecasts of the "cashless" future of retail, cash will be around.
On Wednesday, around lunchtime, there's session No. 6: — Cash: A Meaningful and Critical Payment Option for Consumers." The description of the session reads:
The role of cash still plays a critical part in our daily lives. It serves to provide us with a sense of comfort and security and control, over what can seem like a chaotic landscape of choices and decisions. Cash, and immediate access to it, provides us with a more meaningful experience than one would initially assume.
Later that afternoon, there's session No. 17 — "Current & Future Trends of U.S. Consumer Payments." That description:
While there has been a shift from paper payments to electronic payments over the past two decades, shifts in consumer preferences have been far less dramatic and more gradual than many believe.
Elements missing from the synopsis are heritage, culture and demographics. By this I mean that where we come from and who we are determines so much about our use of one financial instrument over another.
I was an adult before I saw my first credit card. My pay envelope, doled out every second Thursday and stuffed with multicolored banknotes, was the only validation I had that I was making a difference in the world.
As for my children, I'm not even sure that they can tell me the denominations of banknotes in circulation — their heritage is tied to the mobile phone. My generation? My culture? Cash!
For the generation immediately following me, plastic. For my children, codes and apps on a smartphone!
We have to cater to all of these generations. Even so, I cannot count the number of times I have been pressed to hand over a couple of banknotes in an emergency. And it is this sense of comfort, security and control that makes perhaps the strongest statement about the relevance of cash in the long term.
I will always be able to get out of town fast; I will never fear hackers helping themselves to my funds; and the last time I checked, robots didn't need cash, so the future looks safe for cash in that respect.
My phone will keep changing. Technology has a way of ensuring that nothing stays the same for long.
Thankfully, cash continues to prevail and from that — and all the cash I have stashed away in my travel wallet — I derive considerable comfort!
I hope to see you in Orlando; if you see me walking the corridors, stop me and perhaps we can grab a quick cup of coffee — you will have cash for it, right?
Richard Buckle / Richard Buckle is the founder and CEO of Pyalla Technologies LLC. He has enjoyed a long association with the IT industry as a user, vendor, and more recently, as an industry commentator.