Wired magazine recently published an article entitled “One Swede Will Kill Cash Forever – Unless His Foe Saves It From Extinction”, which discusses the significant shift taking place in Sweden in the world of cash. While the country was the first European nation to print paper money over 350 years ago, they could be the first to phase it out as they embrace digital finance platforms.
“In 2010, 40 percent of Swedish retail transactions were made using cash; by 2014 that amount had fallen to about 20 percent. More than half of bank offices no longer deal in cash.” Swedes are also active users of person-to-person payments via mobile, with close to half the population using the Swish app to transfer money, and make payments at small businesses. This adoption of digital forms of payments appears to have had a positive impact on street crime. While the extent to which is not clear, the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention reported a 70 percent decrease in bank robberies compared to a decade earlier (there were 23 bank robberies in 2014) and in that same period, a 10 percent decrease in muggings. Removing the incentive, cash, to rob a shop, individual or bank seems to be a deterrent for robbers as police point out.
As this transformation unfolds, there are 2 divided groups represented by Björn Ulvaeus, who would like to completely remove cash from Sweden, and Björn Eriksson, who would like to preserve it (he asserts it’s more secure and better for consumers). As these different perspectives are shared, one thing is for certain, consumers are connected to their mobile devices and it serves as a core aspect of their everyday lives, of which financial transactions are a major component. At the end of the day, consumers will gravitate towards solutions which provide them with convenience, simplicity and peace of mind. “Economists have been predicting the end of physical currency for decades, and Sweden’s transformation signals the time is nigh for the rest of the world. Americans may cling to their bills and coins with greater tenacity than Swedes do, but in that reluctance is an opportunity to proceed cautiously and look to Sweden for guidance.”