ANZ Bank, one of the "Big Four" banks in Australia, recently announced that it will no longer facilitate withdrawals and deposits at some of its branches as part of its strategy to encourage its customers to use digital transactions. The decision has generated some backlash, with critics concerned about the potential impact on older customers who may be less capable of going digital. Patricia Sparrow, CEO of the Council on the Ageing, voiced her concerns in an interview with The Australian, warning that the move could disproportionately affect older Australians. Other critics have suggested that this decision may also make fiat users more vulnerable to technical issues.
This move by ANZ Bank has also renewed fears of a push towards a cashless society, with some speculating that cash could soon be replaced by central bank digital currencies (CBDCs). As reported by the Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) in a bulletin on March 16, the percentage of retail payments made with cash has decreased from 59% in 2007 to just 27% in 2019. This trend highlights the gradual shift towards a cashless society in Australia, which has been driven by several factors such as the increasing popularity of digital transactions, the convenience of contactless payments, and the declining use of cash.
However, the push towards digital transactions has also raised concerns about financial inclusion, particularly for older Australians who may be less familiar with technology or have limited access to digital services. This is a valid concern, given that the digital divide in Australia is still significant, with many older Australians lacking access to digital devices or the skills to use them effectively. In light of this, ANZ Bank's decision to discontinue cash transactions at some of its branches could exacerbate this issue and limit the banking options available to some of its customers.
To address these concerns, it is important for banks and policymakers to ensure that the shift towards a cashless society is inclusive and does not leave vulnerable groups behind. This could involve providing support and resources for older Australians to help them adapt to digital transactions, as well as ensuring that there are adequate safeguards in place to protect consumers from technical issues or fraudulent activities. It is also crucial for policymakers to consider the potential impact on financial privacy and security as digital transactions become increasingly dominant in society.
In conclusion, ANZ Bank's decision to discontinue cash transactions at some of its branches highlights the ongoing shift towards a cashless society in Australia. While this trend offers numerous benefits such as increased convenience and efficiency, it also raises concerns about financial inclusion and security. Therefore, it is crucial for banks and policymakers to ensure that the transition towards a cashless society is inclusive and takes into account the needs of all members of society, particularly the most vulnerable.