By Richard Giedroyc
Sweden has for some time been indicating the nation is moving in the direction of universally using electronic means of transferring value rather than physical cash. Well, according to the KTH Royal Institute of Technology and other sources Swedes may soon find coins and bank notes to be something out of their archaic past.
An app-driven mobile payment system called Swish appears to be leading the way. According to Play.Google.com, “The money is sent directly into the recipient’s account, no matter which one of the participant banks they have.”
The use of Swish and several competitors including iZettle, Klarna, Seamless, and Whywallet is being encouraged by Swedish commercial banks. These competitors may require a small card reader in order to accept payments as can Swish. The cost of using each competing app varies.
Several major banks now refuse to accept cash entirely. Swish has become so popular that even the newspaper Situation Stockholm which is sold through homeless vendors is accepting payments through the system. Bankers are now required to file police reports whenever someone uses cash when making banking transactions.
Swish was developed through Danske Bank, Handelsbanken, Länsförsäkringar, Nordea, SEB, Swedbank, and Sparbankerna. Since that time Skandia, Ica Banken, Sparbanken Syd, and Sparbanken Öresund have joined with the initial developers, offering Swish to their clients as well.
A strength of Swish is that it allows real-time transactions. Money is transferred instantly between bank accounts, regardless of if the accounts belong to two individuals, two companies, or an individual and a business. It doesn’t matter what value is being transferred. There is no minimum payment.
The impact on coins and bank notes is noticeable. According to KTH Royal Institute spokesman Niklas Arvidsson, there is about 80 billion kroner or crowns value (about $8.8 billion US) in circulation, however only about 40 to 60 percent of this value circulates physically.
The Oct. 16 issue of Science Alert, which quoted Arvidsson, added: “The remainder has been buried in people’s backyards, in their sock drawers, or is being used for criminal activity. To give you an idea of how quickly the Swedes are rejecting cash, just six years ago, that figure was up around SEK106 billion.
“At the offices which do handle bank notes and coins, the customer must explain where the cash comes from, according to the regulations aimed at money laundering and terrorist financing.”
The downside to encouraging electronic financial transfers includes an already noticeable increase in cyber crimes. It has also been learned that retirees are having a difficult time understanding the technology. No one appears to be addressing the fact a government can monitor all transactions and if it wishes could wipe out the wealth of an individual or business with the push of a button.
The one bright spot for those individuals who do not want to see coins and bank notes go away is that a recent Swedish survey indicated about two-thirds of individuals surveyed still consider the right to use physical cash as a human right regardless of if they use cash or not.
The future does, however, appear to be bleak for physical cash enthusiasts in Sweden. According to a Jan. 27 posting on ecommercenews.com, as of December 2014 Swish was adding more than 120,000 users monthly. During the same period more than 1.69 billion kronor was being transferred using the Swish app.
This article was originally printed in World Coin News.
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