By David Morrison

Faithful churchgoers in the Jarna-Vardinge parish in Sweden no longer toss coins and bills into the collection basket. Rather than reach into their pockets for money, church attendees are apt to pull out their iPhones to make donations. Sweden, whose citizens have difficulty obtaining cash from institutions such as banks these days, is frequently lauded as the country that’s leading the way towards a completely cashless society. The country is scheduled to be totally cashless by 20231.

But the trend is evident elsewhere around the world. In 2017 the number of cash transactions in the United Kingdom dropped by a staggering 15 per cent2. Economists in Australia predict that cash will make up only two per cent of all payments in that country by 20223.

Going cashless has been happening here at home as well, echoed by Payment Canada’s Canadian Payment Methods and Trends: 2018. Said the report: “Canadians are choosing to tap their cards or phones at the POS (point of sale) in lieu of using cash, and increasingly in lieu of chip-and-PIN, with 55 per cent growth for both contactless volume and value since 2016.” The report also found that cash use for “lower value lifestyle purchases like buses, taxis and coffee is down by nearly 20 per cent since 2012.”4

Just like the Swedes, Canadians are experiencing the realities of a cashless society in myriad ways on a daily basis. Just ask the office workers in the tony Yonge and Bloor neighbourhood of downtown Toronto who buy their take-out salads at a popular eatery called Flock. That establishment went cashless in late 2017, requiring hungry diners to put away their cash and tap their cards instead.

Cashless challenges

The growth of the cashless society has not been free of challenges. There’s been a great deal of media coverage about hospitality workers becoming one of the casualties of the cashless era. Like how do you tip a valet at your hotel? How does a keynote speaker at a convention tip the coat check attendant? Or, how does one avoid the embarrassment of not having ready cash on hand when asked to make a donation on the spot?

Who among us—especially in the last couple of years—hasn’t stood, riddled with embarrassment, when realizing we don’t have cash to stuff into a birthday envelope or chip in for a colleague’s retirement gift?

Sharing money in the moment

It has been this growing need—and ultimate demand—for ways to make on-the-spot micro payments easily and quickly that’s ushered in the new forms of payment. Platforms such as FOOi, a mobile application that facilitates peer-to-peer (P2P) and peer-to-business (P2B) financial transactions, are disrupting the forms of payment available to consumers. In the case of FOOi, which is essentially a digital wallet that allows users to “share money in the moment,” users aren’t required to share a lot of personal information.

The development of FOOi was originally spurred by the need to tip hospitality workers when one doesn’t have cash. FOOi’s capability to offer “cashless tipping” ensures they and others will continue to get their gratuities: which constitutes a significant portion of their incomes. The FOOi app now allows for P2P transfers, the ability to make charitable donations and P2B payments. To make a payment, the user finds the recipient’s account on the app, types in the amount they wish to pay that person and hits “Give.”

Innovators are indeed disrupting the way consumers make payments in Canada: with an array of benefits. Consider the numerous challenges posed by the use of ready cash in traditional payment scenarios. Not only can money be lost and/or misplaced, handling cash is also costly and time-consuming.

Consider the workers at Flock restaurant in downtown Toronto who no longer have to calculate change and handle paper money and coins, amongst other duties. It’s all done by the payees with a few taps. (Think back to the part-time retail job you had in university which required you to count and recount cash in the till at the end of your shift).

The consumer also avoids lengthy waits in lineups for cash to be counted and sorted. Plus, there’s the added benefit of having digital records of all payment transactions, regardless of how small.

A Canadian radio announcer recently mused on a welcome job loss in the cashless era: “Will pickpockets looking for ready cash even exist in the cashless society where we won’t have $20 and $50 bills sticking out of our pockets in crowded malls and on trains?”

Consumers and innovators are still realizing the benefits of cashless payments that don’t involve debit or credit cards or require users to fill out cumbersome forms and share personal details. Take gift cards, for instance. While statistics vary from country to country, one source estimates that about $1 billion dollars worth of gift cards (for clothes, music, groceries and sundry other consumer goods categories) go unredeemed each year5.

Sometimes it’s a $100 clothing gift card that gets filed away and forgotten about. Or you’ve presented someone with a gift card for wine: and they don’t drink alcohol. That unused or unredeemed gift money could become a thing of the past with the newer forms of digital payments.

Rather than presenting someone with a brand-specific gift card on their birthday, university graduation or wedding day, simply transferring a sum of money to their FOOi account presents a seamless, hassle-free and instant alternative. Chances are that the recipient will actually use the well-intended gift of money that you’ve transferred into their digital wallet.

There has been some concern that the poor and “unbanked” (those who, for various reasons, aren’t able to establish credit and debit cards) will have a difficult time in the impending cashless society. Trend-watchers cite the inability of certain members of society to afford iPhones and other digital devices as a challenge. But it should be noted that cashless payments forms, such as FOOi, can actually help the unbanked who can’t qualify for credit cards. Once they’re set up on such digital payment systems—which doesn’t require a lengthy approval process—they’re free to join the cashless society just like everyone else.

Stay tuned as disruptors in the payments industry give traditional financial institutions a run for their money: in a good way.

David Morrison has been immersed in the financial services industry in Canada for the last three decades. As principal of Morrison Financial, (www.morrisonfinancial.com) a company he founded in 1987, the Toronto-based executive has 30 years of experience in private capital markets. His observations of the evolving cashless society and changing trends in P2P and P2B banking prompted him to launch, with business executive David Cynamon, FOOi, a digital payments application for mobile that enables Canadians to make instant P2P and P2B payments.

1 “Going Cashless: What Can We Learn from Sweden’s Experience?”, Knowledge@Wharton, interview, August 31, 2018.

2 Oliver Wade, “Cashless payments overtake cash transactions”, MoneyAge, January 9, 2019.

3 Westpac Banking Corporation, “Australian smartphone users predict the nation will be cash free by 2022”, press release, September 21, 2015.

4 Michael Tompkins and Viktoria Galociova, “Canadian Payment Methods and Trends: 2018”, Payments Canada, report, December 10, 2018.

5 Kari Paul, “$1 billion in gift cards go unused every year—here’s how to avoid that”, MarketWatch, January 1, 2018.

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