There are three rhino species currently on the critically endangered list, and while monetary greed has been the leading force of this demise, it was a cryptocurrency, Rhino Coin, that was set up to help save the rhino. Also on the endangered list could be the Norwegian Krona, the Swedish Krona and the Finnish Euro (in Finland, the Markka became extinct in 2002 having been born in 1860, replacing the Russian ruble). Are these physical currencies being forced out of their natural habitat by their more adaptive digital cousins? Is their extinction more certain than the unfortunate rhino?
The signs of demise are everywhere, and while some reasons for this financial Darwinism are obvious, some are less so. Fraudulent activities, often enabled by hard-to-trace hard cash, become much harder to conceal in the digital world.
Even on a more individual level, the British pound (somewhat further down the endangered list) is now requested by buskers on the London underground via swipe terminals. Glasgow and other major cities are introducing contactless donation points for giving to the homeless. Times are moving on.
And just recently, the World Health Organisation is pointing out that cash can be bad for our health, recommending that we make contactless payments rather than handle cash, to slow the transmission of Coronavirus.
The arguments for digital financial services are getting stronger and the need for cash is diminishing. The Fintech sector has an important role to play to ensure that no-one is left behind when cash becomes an unwelcome, so endangered, method of payment. Whether that is providing access to digital banking, online lending and borrowing for consumers and businesses, or app-based payments.
We have to manage this across borders and in areas that are harder to reach for technology. Software vendors need to work with financial services firms because it is the latest FinTech, not legacy systems, that will protect us from the demise of cash.