Sweden's Björn Eriksson and the Cash Uprising

March 7, 2018 Share Source

Björn Eriksson - one of Sweden's best-known cash champions and civil servants - published a pro-cash white paper in 2014 titled Korten på bordet (Cards on the Table).

The impact of the document trickled through the Cash Debate ever since, but it wasn't translated into English until Currency Research got on the case.

His take is still relevant, today. Although he is technically retired, his experience as Interpol leader, national police officer and governor Chairman of the Security Industry and initiator of the Cash Revenue maintains the strength of his way of thinking and concluding arguments.

Now, he devotes his time to the 'cash problem' and the 'corruption, deceit and security risks' that fuel it. Recently, the former Cash Uprising leader wrote an article for Debatt concerning the security issues of losing cash altogether. 

Consumers are not shaping Ulvaeus’ utopianist dream of a cashless future, Eriksson says; the banks and credit card companies are.

"Cash is disappearing from society, it is a development that is not driven by consumers. It's the big banks, yes, it's clearing Handelsbanken, who hurries it out. And the reason is pure profit..." - Björn Eriksson.

Excerpt from Introduction by Currency Research 

With a widespread shift to digital payments and rapidly disappearing cash services in banks across the country, Sweden is often held up as a model for the move towards the cash-free society. The international media has picked up on this economic experiment and has uncritically disseminated the details of Sweden's move to cashlessness as a success story in cutting costs and reducing crime. 

The reality, however, is far less utopian. Many are now asking whether the move has benefitted society or just the bottom line of the banks involved. 

Björn identifies 'who wants to get rid of cash and why' in Sweden, namely the three major banks (Swedbank, SEB and Nordea) and the two credit card companies (Visa and MasterCard). 

'Credit cards are a serious cash cow for the banks and the more that people use them, the more money the banks make. The major banks would see the biggest profits if cash disappeared entirely from circulation.'
" Björn Eriksson Cards on the Table: The Reasons Why Banks Want to Eliminate Cash (translated by Currency Research)

Eriksson then unpacks the logical motives behind their 'going cashless' efforts and finds that cash safeguards the people's power to fight authorities abusing their power. He draws from a 2014 case study when Swedish banks tried to implement a fee for simply using the mobile payment app Swish but were met with protests which forced the banks to abandon the scheme.

As long as there is cash, people are empowered.

'...if all transactions were done digitally, the major banks would control all the payment flows, which would open up a number of possibilities such as the introduction of new fees and various types of controls.'

The question is, who should have the final say on whether a transaction should happen? An elected official, financial authorities or private companies? If your answer was, 'none... it should be the people paying and receiving the payment', then you deserve a gold star. 

When Visa blocked payments to WikiLeaks because 'they reserve the right to prevent transactions with companies they find immoral or inappropriate' they showed their hand. The move reminded attentive consumers they shouldn't be forced to ask for permission to pay, especially from a biased profit-driven company.

In a cashless society, can you trust Visa or Mastercard to protect the voice of the individual over their profit-driven interests? No.

As long as there is cash, people cannot be financially crippled by credit card companies in one click.

"Even if, in the next few years, Swedes use almost no cash at all, going 100% cashless needs a political decision,” he said.“The idea of cash, even in Sweden, remains very strong.”
" Niklas Arvidsson, Associate professor in payment systems at Stockholm’s Royal Institute of Technology (KTH). As quoted by The Guardian.

Despite the headlines suggesting that the entire nation is anti-cash, the problems from cashless initiatives have inspired a 'campaign, called Kontantupproret (the cash insurgency), which demands that the future of money should be a democratic decision, not left just to banks and businesses.'

Bjōrn knew years ago that the easiest way to abolish cash is to 'make it as complicated and expensive as possible to deal with,' and even predicts some of the tactics we see today including the 'rapid disappearance of bank branches dealing in cash.'

In quick succession, the rest of the paper assesses the main arguments for and against cash and finds that, unsurprisingly, cash is needed. 

Read Debatt article here

Read original white paper here

Read English translated white paper here


Crouch, David. 'Cashing out? Why notes and coins may become a thing of the past in Sweden.' Debatt. Electronically published February 18, 2018. Accessed March 08, 2018. 

Eriksson, Björn. 'Cards on the Table: The Reasons Why Banks Want to Eliminate Cash'. Currency Research. Electronically published June 04, 2016. Accessed March 08, 2018. 

Eriksson, Björn. 'Utan kontanter blottar vi oss för fienden.' Debatt. Electronically published March 06, 2018. Accessed March 08, 2018. 

Henley, Jon. 'Sweden leads the race to become cashless society.' The Guardian. Electronically published June 04, 2016. Accessed March 08, 2018. 

Mallory Pickett. 'One Swede will kill cash forever - unless his foe saves it from extinction.' Wired. Electronically published August 05, 2016. Accessed March 08, 2018. 

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Going cashless was once a dream for Sweden, but experts now warn it could quickly turn into a nightmare for the Scandinavian country.The nation's parliament has thus launched a review on the impact of going cashless after fears that it dramatically excludes the needs of the elderly, children and tourists who rely on cash. 

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But the pace at which cash is vanishing has authorities worried. A broad review of central bank legislation that’s underway is now taking a special look at the situation, with an interim report due as early as the summer...“If this development with cash disappearing happens too fast, it can be difficult to maintain the infrastructure” for handling cash, said Mats Dillen, the head of the parliamentary review.  

Business Insider The movement to a cashless society is 'snowballing' (May 18, 2016)
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Last Updated: March 9, 2018