Featuring a host of high quality speakers from the payment industry, The NPF Webinar: Crisis Management in Payments, has underlined in no uncertain terms how consumer response to the COVID-19 crisis tells us much about the changing role of cash within society. 

The series of webinars placed focus on a host of subjects, mainly surrounding how the industry can overcome the ongoing global health pandemic. 

Opening with a presentation, futurist and digital strategist Chris Crespo explained that changing behaviours across generations are driving digital transformation, specifically in light of the current pandemic. 

Commenting on how the current crisis has accelerated change in the way companies do business, he stated: “As we know ecommerce has been growing exponentially since 2007. Back then the proportion of retail that was carried out online was just about five per cent of the total retail revenue, in 2019 that number had grown to 16 per cent. 

“What’s happening is that through this crisis companies are having to reinvent themselves and reinvent their distribution models. And as people are homebound and restricted, online activity is increasing dramatically.

“This of course has an impact on payment solutions, which enable customers to be able to pay remotely and identify them remotely in order to securely carry out transactions. Also, the merchants are now in a very quick fashion evolving their business and distribution models to have online distributions.” 

He added: “That’s one of the main things putting payments companies under duress. How do we continue to support customers as they migrate their business from the physical channel to the online channel?”  

Emphasising how the current crisis has changed the role of cash within society, he noted: “Whenever you go to the ATM, you are actually taking home far more than just cash. And this is based on a number of studies, mainly coming out of the US, where they have analysed all the germs that can be found on the keypads at ATM machines, as well as chip and pin machines.

“What they found is there are more than 3,000 different types of bacteria on these keypads, as this health crisis increases the prospect of catching something potentially fatal from these terminals becomes closer to a reality. 

“Cash is also quarantined. A number of federal reserves place cash coming from abroad into quarantine, for seven to 14 days, in some cases exposing it to heat in order to kill infectious diseases that may be on the cash. And in some of the most extreme cases, in Korea for example, they’re even burning the cash. 

“What is happening here is there is a notion that cash is becoming a vector for transmission of diseases, that makes it extremely inconvenient and a health risk to continue to handle.”