Sweden's War on Cash Runs Into a Wall – and a Heroic Bank

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by Joseph T. Salerno

Recently by Joseph T. Salerno: Imperialism and the Logic of War-Making

     

The war on cash in Sweden may be stalling. The anti-cash movement has been vigorously promoted by major Swedish commercial banks as well as the Riksbank, the Swedish central bank. In fact, for three of the four major Swedish banks combined, 530 of their 780 office no longer accept or pay out cash. In the case of the Nordea Bank, 200 of its 300 branches are now cashless, and three-quarters of Swedbank’s branches no longer handle cash. As Peter Borsos, a spokesman for Swedbank, freely admits, his bank is working “actively to reduce the [amount] of cash in society.” The reasons for this push toward a cashless society, of course, have nothing to do with pumping up earnings from bank card fees or, more important, freeing fractional-reserve banks from the constraints of bank runs. No, according to Borsos, the reasons are the environment, cost, and security: ”We ourselves emit 700 tons of carbon dioxide by cash transport. It costs society 11 billion per year. And cash helps robberies everywhere.” Hans Jacobson, head of Nordea Bank, argues similarly: ”Our mission is to make people understand the point of cards, cards are more secure than cash.”

Fortunately, it seems that the Swedish people are not falling for the anti-cash propaganda spewed by private bankers and Riksbank officials and are resisting the trend toward a cashless economy. It is reported that last year the value of cash transactions in Sweden were 99 billion krona which represented only a marginal decrease from ten years ago. And small shops continue to do one-third to one-half of their business in cash. Furthermore a study of bank customers satisfaction released by the Swedish Quality Index in October 2012, indicated that the satisfaction index was pulled down among customers of Swedbank, Nordea and SEB by their policy of eliminating cash transactions at their bank branches. Even more heartening is the fact that Handelsbanken, the largest bank in Sweden, is committed to serving consumers who demand cash. As Kai Jokitulppo, head of private services at Handelsbanken, puts it:

“As long as we know that our customers are asking for cash, it is important that we as a bank [are] providing it. . . . We see places where other banks are taking other decisions, we get customers from them and positive response.”

Fewer then 10 of Handelsbanken’s 461 branches currently do not handle cash and the bank’s goal is to have cash in every branch by the first quarter of 2013.

HT to Per Bylund

Joseph Salerno [send him mail] is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, chairman of the graduate program in economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.

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