Much of the declining growth can be attributed to the range of new payment technologies available. Credit and debit-card spending is on the rise, and in particular the arrival and acceptance of contactless payment is eroding the use of cash for smaller-value transactions. This is being joined by new electronic platforms.
The attitudes to payment of the Millennial Cohort – those born between 1980 and 2000 – is having a profound impact on the banknote printing industry. Millennials, often described as "digital and mobile natives," are much more ready to use online shopping, or electronic payment in retail stores. The overall value of e-commerce transactions worldwide continues with a double-digit growth year-on-year.
Despite these challenges, Smithers Pira pinpoints four areas of development that are fighting the perception that the use, and profitability of printing cash is in terminal decline.
Security by design
In recent years, banknote suppliers have responded to market factors and central bank objectives by aligning design, security and supply chain considerations, leading to a concept called "security by design." This covers all stakeholders from initial design to substrate and feature selection, through manufacturing processes to authentication and banknote processing.
Recent banknote designs increasingly explore the concept of creating similar effects with different technologies applicable to different stages of the production value chain.
Designs are simple, interesting and exciting, while containing novel optical and covert features. New effects catch the eye more instantaneously than old features. For the public to remember and authenticate banknotes effectively with minimal effort, the features on the note must interact with the user and within the features themselves.
Moving forward, banknote designs will be characterized by:
- More and brighter colors
- More abstract images
- More vertical orientation
- A more diverse selection of portrait subjects – in particular more female characters from history.
The key takeaway is there will be an increased emphasis on innovative design as a confidence-building tool, aiming to engage the public in note authentication.
Durability in note construction
Fitness criteria help to determine whether a banknote is suitable for recirculation or should be replaced by a new one, as well as to improve efficiencies in the processing speed and sorting accuracy of ATMs and note sorting systems. In addition, security features can be better authenticated on fit and clean banknotes.
Stricter fitness criteria can act to reduce the lifecycle of banknotes, forcing issuing authorities to produce higher volumes to meet demand. In response, demand has increased for durable substrates in the form of polymer, composites and paper treated with varnishes and coatings that increase the lifecycle of a banknote. The net effect of longer-life banknotes and shrinking demand is a decline in the number of printed banknotes annually, at net lower costs.
Sharply improved technical capabilities of ATMs, note sorting systems and their embedded sensors have created the opportunity to collect vast amounts of data on a wide variety of topics pertaining to banknotes, including velocity, frequency, fitness patterns, geographic movement and so on. Networked machines are able to analyze in real time what the status of currency efficiency and security is, allowing central banks to make better-informed decisions regarding inventory, ordering frequency, effectiveness of security features and more.
Data analytics to forecast demand
On a similar theme, advances in data analytics machine learning and artificial intelligence have led to an emerging use of data analytics to forecast demand, optimize the cash cycle and measure anti-counterfeiting effectiveness. This is seeing established companies in the banknote printing sector diversifying their business offerings focussing further down the use chain; as well as creating a niche for new specialist entrants.
Volume decline, new counterfeiting threats, improved sensor capabilities and adoption of data analytics are leading to industry restructuring, including acquisitions, divestitures and closures, strategic collaboration among all stakeholders, rise of consulting services and intensified competition.
Some countries are taking control of domestic banknote printing and production. This can pose a challenge for established banknote printing companies that have often taken on this work, especially for state in transition economies. For example, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) opened its first banknote printing plant in 2017, aspiring to become the premium choice of central banks in the Middle East for banknote production.
Africa still presents a commercial proposition for the future. De La Rue is investing $14 million in the expansion of its banknote and security printing facility in Kenya, with the intent of becoming a regional hub for East Africa and the continent. And Crane Currency’s new $100 million facility has been located on Malta, both because of substantial government subsidies and proximities to Africa, and the Middle East.