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Future of cash secured for now as banks and retailers bail out Armaguard

  • Written by Steve Worthington, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology

A deal reached between Armaguard[1], the banks, and Australia’s largest retailers securing the cash-in-transit service’s future, is good news, for now, for those Australians who still use cash.

The distribution of bank notes and coins throughout the country faced an uncertain future when an earlier attempt in April to bail out the troubled Armaguard collapsed.

But in weekend talks Armaguard’s main customers including the big four banks, Coles, Woolworths, Bunnings and Australia Post agreed to a $50 million life raft[2] to help the struggling Linfox-owned company.

Armaguard, which has about 90% of Australia’s cash-in-transit market[3], has been under increasing pressure as the use of cash plummeted during the pandemic. As well, like many organisations, its fixed costs have increased.

A fix … for now

Under the new agreement, Armaguard will receive the funding boost beginning July 2024, which will guarantee the distribution and collection of cash, over the next 12 months.

The company will need to meet certain restructuring conditions as part of the deal. This may include cutting back on deliveries.

In the meantime the banks and other major providers of cash to their customers will be looking at other options.

Woman at ATM
Cash is used in 13% of transactions in Australia, dropping from about 70% before the pandemic. Lukas Koch/AAP[4]

This is likely to include a jointly owned cash distribution service, with no fees for withdrawing cash from either their ATM networks or from the non-bank networks, like Australia Post, which can already provide cash.

Such a new ownership structure would be helped if the government declared cash as “an essential service” for its citizens, in much the same way the supply of power and water is already considered.

A longer term solution

Some other countries have already gone down this path, for example in the United Kingdom most ATMs are in the Link network[5], which is jointly owned by the banks who provide deposit and withdrawal outlets for customers.

This allows anybody with an account at almost any bank to access cash at no cost across the United Kingdom.

The Riksbank, the central bank of Sweden – a country which many regard as the best example of a cashless society – has called for legislation to protect both notes and coins[6] as a means of payment for Swedes.

This would require all banks accept cash deposits as well as having a stash of cash, so notes and coins were available to customers who request it.

Cash is still needed

While use of cash is down to about 13% of transactions[7] in Australia, access to it is vital for those who rely on it, including people in regional areas with poor connectivity, people without digital skills and those who consider cash more reliable.

For this reason major businesses, such as the large retailers who use Armaguard’s service, rely on a cash-in-transit service.

The Armaguard deal is yet to be authorised by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Its approval will be needed by July 1, when the new contracts are expected to start.

References

  1. ^ Armaguard (armaguard.com.au)
  2. ^ $50 million life raft (www.ausbanking.org.au)
  3. ^ 90% of Australia’s cash-in-transit market (www.abc.net.au)
  4. ^ Lukas Koch/AAP (photos.aap.com.au)
  5. ^ Link network (www.link.co.uk)
  6. ^ has called for legislation to protect both notes and coins (www.riksbank.se)
  7. ^ 13% of transactions (www.rba.gov.au)

Authors: Steve Worthington, Adjunct Professor, Swinburne University of Technology

Read more https://theconversation.com/future-of-cash-secured-for-now-as-banks-and-retailers-bail-out-armaguard-233087

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