Mark Carney—Governor of the Bank of England—announced on Friday the launch of this year's Future Forum 2018, but with a twist! In its third year, the annual forum will run on a virtual platform from November 2nd, 2018 until January 16th, 2019.
Centered around the theme "Let's Decide the Future of Money", the online forum will encourage the public to weigh in on all things cash, payments, and money in an effort to 'bring together a wide range of views'.
While the Bank of England ensures the public that 'banknotes will remain an essential form of payment for some time', the recent news of card`red the central bank into addressing cashless tensions. Offering the UK an outlet for their payments landscape worries, the virtual future forum platform is launched with a cash vs cashless challenge.
"Cash remains the most widely used payment method in the UK."
From Friday, November 2nd, 2018 until Wednesday, January 9th, 2019, the Bank of England will be running a cash versus cash challenge. Participants are asked to decide if they consider their payment habits primarily cash or cashless then challenge themselves to a switch, committing to living either cash only or cashless, respectively, for a full week. At the end of the week, they are asked to report back on the virtual forum with feedback on their experience.
Interesting as the social experiment may be, a word of warning. Those going cashless will be vulnerable to payment system failures and might want to keep emergency cash on them and around the house in case of a payment network crash. As this year's BA hack, the multiple Visa outages, and the Cardnet glitch proved, you never know when one might strike.
Recently, the public was also invited to nominate a scientist to adorn the new £50 polymer banknote by December 14th, 2018. In the competition's first a week, a solid list emerged as frontrunners:
- Alan Turing (1912-1954)
- Ada Lovelace
- Stephen Hawking
- Ada Lovelace (1815-1852)
- Dorothy Hodgkin (1910-1994)
- Rosalind Franklin (1920-1958)
- Mary Anning (1799-1847)
- Fred Sanger (1918-2013)
- Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)
- Sir Peter Medawar (1915-1987)
The current £50 banknote shows the faces of engineering duo James Watt and Matthew Boulton, the men behind the introduction of the steam engine. For a while there, it seemed the 50-pound note would not be included in the polymer (or plastic) series, widely considered too rare a banknote to matter, a unicorn to many, whispered about but never seen.
Members of the public have six weeks to nominate a historical character who has contributed to science and influenced UK society. They could have worked in any field of science including astronomy, biology, bio-technology, chemistry, engineering, mathematics, medical research, physics, technology or zoology.
“Developing a new £50 note is an important step to ensure we can continue to provide secure banknotes that can be used with confidence. For this note, we want people to nominate a variety of characters to reflect the brilliance and breadth of the UK’s contributions to the field of science.”
Earlier this year, the Bank of England issued a call for evidence on cash and digital payments use to gain a better understanding of the role banknotes and coins play across the UK and its borders.
Revealing a worrisome temptation to cull the two smallest denominations (the penny and two-pence) as well as the largest (the 50-pound banknote) from circulation, it was lucky such a horror was met by a staunch resistance driven by the public and the media armed with the hashtag #savethepenny.
The end result was an acceptance that coins and banknotes continue to matter deeply to the British public. The network of charities also played an essential role defending the pennies, with the UK raising 320 million pounds in loose change last year.
"Banknotes will remain an essential form of payment for some time."
Be sure to tune in for LIVE Q&A sessions with Dave Ramsden (Nov 14th), Sam Woods (Nov 16th), Jo Place (Nov 19th), Marc Carney (Nov 27th), and Jon Cunliffe (Dec 13th) and Ben Broadbent who will announce the close of the cash competition (Jan 9th). To mark the end of the Forum, all governors will appear for a joint session on Jan 16th, 2019.
To sum up
What is clear, is that the UK's central bank wants to know where the public stands on the future of banking, Fintech, cyber resilience, climate change, and savings to some extent. What is unclear, is whether a digital forum will tip the scales in favor of the digital payments.
Even with the rise of both card and mobile payments, two million adults across the UK live without bank accounts and rely on cash. Those with little to no access to online services may not be heard in this competition, but perhaps the power of empathy for the downtrodden will inspire a rebellion against cashless overhype and a defense for the option to use cash, even when choosing cashless.