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Editor's Blog
Editor's Blog
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Looking for Transparency? Don't Look at UK.

Transparency is not something for which the UK is famed.

Opacity seems to suit the British psyche better, perhaps because it often renders it impossible to make too strong a criticism. This in turn allows the average Brit to mutter "mustn't grumble", as they shuffle their way through lives largely undisturbed by major disruptions.

In Financial Services, transparency has been particularly elusive. Almost everything that was supposed to be "fixed" in an open and even-handed manner, has in fact been subject to self-interested corruption.

This situation is not restricted to the cases which have made national media headlines. 

Take LINK, the UK's much-loved ATM network, through which 99.9% of UK ATMs are connected.

Way back in the early years of the new millennium, the Regulatory Authorities ordered that LINK should be entirely separated from VocaLink, an entity which was effectively the parent company of LINK.

However, many decisions made by the "Authorities" never see any follow up. In this case, the lack of any meaningful policing of the decision meant that a decade elapsed before the legal separation took place.

Not long after the final divorce of VocaLink and LINK, MasterCard bought the former. So we had a narrow escape from MasterCard controlling the UK ATM network.

Another case concerns one of the results of the end of the UK Payments Council. This dysfunctional organisation was put out of its misery by the Bank of England. It is now part of the Trade Association "UK Finance", where there is at least no pretense that all activities focus on the Public Interest.

However, an organisation  which was spun-off from the Payments Council was the one dealing with cash.

This is quite a strange case. Ron Delnevo, Chair of Cash & Card World, was at one time a director of the UK Payments Council. Ron, who is a great supporter of cash, repeatedly insisted that the worlds favourite payment method must be given some attention by the Payments Council. Eventually, he had his way and a small team of people were recruited to look after the interests of cash.

All that was fine - but what was to be done with the Cash Department, probably unwanted and unloved, when the Payments Council bit the dust?

In the opaque world of UK Financial Services, no problem!

Suddenly, an organisation called Cash Services emerges from the ashes of the Payments Council. It claims to be a membership organisation, but does not publish a list of members and does not make clear on its website which organisations, if any, oversees its activities.

The only thing seemingly clear about Cash Services is that it has been put in place to manage cash out of the UK economy. In effect, created to bring about it own demise. This is made rather obvious by the fact that the Senior Policy Advisor for Cash Services does not normally carry cash.

Can you imagine someone getting a policy role at Visa or MasterCard if they admitted to seldom carrying a plastic card?

Does all of this make you despair for the future of cash in the UK?

DO NOT WORRY.

Cash-is-Cool will ALWAYS ensure cash gets a Square Deal from the Square Mile.

Is that transparently clear?

Saturday, 23rd September 2017

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