Thursday, July 27, 2017

Cashless Society - When Push Comes to Shove, Visa is Right There

Throughout the history of this blog, I have written several postings on the concept of a cashless society and the forces behind this move.  A recent move by one of the big players in the field suggests that Corporate America is willing to financially reward merchants for making moves toward global digital payments.

Here's the press release dated July 12, 2017:


Here is a screen capture from the United States Visa website, announcing "The Visa Cashless Challenge":


In its drive to rid the world of those dirty fiat currency notes, Visa's Cashless Challenge will see the company awarding up to $500,000 to 50 eligible U.S.-based small business food service owners who commit to joining the challenge.
  
Visa states that there are three advantages to small business restaurants, cafes and food trucks adopting a cashless model:

1.) safer business

2.) boosted productivity

3.) more time to mentor employees

The company also states that if businesses in 100 cities transitioned from cash to digital, their cities would see net financial benefits of $312 billion annually.  New York City alone would see their businesses generate an additional $6.8 billion in revenue and save more than 186 million hours in labor by using digital payments.  Now that has got to be tempting!

Visa even offers some motivating stories about the advantages of cashless businesses:


Here's one showing how Lucas Mast, Visa's Vice President of Social Media made his way through Barcelona for an afternoon without using cash:


Here's one showing how a Visa representative in India, Abhishant Pant, managed to survive for 200 days without using cash:


Over the 200 days he:

1.) Paid for all forms of transport digitally, including auto (Jugnoo, OLA, ONGO), taxi (UBER/OLA/Taxi for Sure), Mumbai Local (unreserved ticket), NMMT Bus, Hirkani Bus (Pune to Mumbai) and Kaali Peeli (regular black and yellow cabs).
        
2.) Identified a barber who accepted digital payments. 
       
3.) Dealt with poor service, including having to walk 8 kilometers back to the office when my mobile was switched off.  
     
4.) Convinced my maid’s entire family that I will pay her salary—just that the money will go directly into her bank account rather than in cash.
        
5.) Pre-paid my laundry, vegetable delivery and newspaper vendors to prove that I mean business.   
     
6.) Had long conversations with neighborhood Kirana stores (mom-and-pop neighborhood grocery stores) on the benefits and challenges of cashlessness. 
   
He concludes that "anyone can go 95 percent cashless".  His biggest failure was having to use street vendors that only accept cash.

According to Visa's annual report for 2016, the company had the following operational highlights compared to 2014 and 2015:


The company had over 3.1 billion payment accounts to 44 million merchant locations globally and precessed total payments of $8.2 trillion and 83 billion payment transactions for the 12 months ending September 30, 2016.  The company has the following goals:


Over the past two years, Visa has provided payment accounts to more than 120 million people who did not have access to such programs.  Visa even has a Payroll card which it uses as an alternative to receiving paper paycheques.  This reduces the need for cheque cashing services and provides access to the companies electronic financial system.

Here is a summary look at the company's 2016 revenue:

  
...and, as I am prone to do and just in case you were curious, here's the bottom line that matters to the corner office dwellers (noting that Mr. Scharf left his job on December 1, 2016):



Obviously, it is in Visa's best interest to prod the restaurant business into a cashless model.  By doing this, Visa and its credit card peers are able to charge merchant fees for each transaction.  The potential for the abuse of cashlessness, particularly the threat to privacy, seems not to concern the promoters of the digital payments world in any form.  After all, these are the companies that will benefit hugely from the end of paper money.