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the future of financial services

Brits predict a cashless society by 2030

A growing number of people now never use cash preferring to use contactless cards or digital banking for purchases. According to a research from Thoughtworks, three in five adults think Britain will be a cashless society by 2030.

Cash is king - but its days are numbered


  • Prince William to be the last monarch to appear on UK banknotes?
  • 59% believe that cash will disappear by 2030, Thoughtworks research finds.
  • One in four predict the end for bank branches in the high street.


Open your wallet and take out a coin or banknote and the Queen’s portrait offers a symbol of permanence and security – but are the days of cash numbered?


A growing number of people now never use cash preferring to use cards, electronic transfers or their smartphones to make purchases. And, according to a market research from Thoughtworks, three in five adults (59%) think Britain will be a cashless society by 2030.


When quizzed about which monarch’s image will be the last to appear on a British banknote, astonishingly nearly 1 in 10 (9%) that foresaw a cashless Britain thought that Queen Elizabeth II would be the last, while half (49%) thought that cash will have disappeared by the time Prince William reaches the throne.


Phil Hingley, Director of Financial Services at Thoughtworks UK commented: “This might be an amusing view of the way we pay for services but the serious message is that banks and consumers need to be prepared for the biggest change in currency since the first coin was struck from precious metal around 3,000 years BC and paper money appeared for the first time in the 11th century. The need for coins and paper banknotes representing value is fast disappearing. Whose portrait appears on Britain’s last banknote may be open to speculation. But that it will happen is beyond doubt.”


“Cashless transactions are rocketing and the UK has by far the largest number of payments made by card, phone or electronically in Europe, amounting to annual revenue of some €106 trillion per year. Some retail sectors – such as transport – are already almost entirely cashless and I see other sectors rapidly catching up. The question is, when will cash disappear from our pockets?”


The research took a tongue in cheek look at which monarch respondents thought would be the last to see their portrait on Britain’s coins and notes – a question that gives a sense of timescale until British becomes a cashless society.


Of the 59% who believe that cash will disappear, 9% believe that Britain will become fully cashless during our current Queen Elizabeth’s reign. Eight out of ten (12%) think Prince Charles will be the last when he becomes King and 29% believe that Prince William will see cash disappear during his reign.


Assuming that the monarchy remains, a fifth (20%), believe that Prince George of Cambridge who is third in the line of succession will be the last to grace British banknotes.


Asked whether they expect cash to disappear by 2030, Those aged 18-24 were most likely to predict a cashless Britain by 2030 (72%, compared to 51% of over 55s).


Thoughtworks' report also asked which aspects of everyday personal banking would cease to exist by 2030. The majority of respondents thought the days were numbered for bank statements by post (64%), cheques (64%) and postal letters from a bank (45%). Respondents also predicted bank branches would change, 29% predicting that paying-in counters would be extinct by 2030, whilst 24% could imagine staff-less branches (24%). Overall, 23% of adults thought high street bank branches would be a thing of the history books by 2030.


Phil Hingley, Director of Financial Services at Thoughtworks UK adds: Consumer life in 2030 Britain will be very different with the advent of new tech. With coins extinct and paper currency on its last legs, consumers will be making instant payments from their mobile and wearable devices. Artificial intelligence will guide our buying decisions, restocking our shelves and giving answers to financial questions. Biometrics will persify and expand how we inter-react: financial services products won’t sit outside our everyday lives, they will become integral to the lifestyle decisions we make.


In this new cashless age, there will be a greater need for data security and safety. Whilst many predict the decline of the high street banks in the digital age, we predict the high street bank branch has an important role to play in tomorrow’s cashless society, but its role and purpose will change and the challenge for banks today is to reimagine the services they will provide in an age where cash has gone and the consumer’s top priority centres on the need for reassurance and safety on how their data is used and how payments are verified. 


Click here to download the 'The Future of Banking’ report.