In just the past few weeks, we’ve seen further examples of how our country is heading toward a cash-free society.
In Seattle, Starbucks announced that one of its coffee places would no longer accept cash. Handling actual money apparently is objectionable in some way, though cash tips are still welcomed. It’s difficult to tell if this is an attempt to be more efficient or to be more hip. Being in Seattle, and being Starbucks, it may be both.
Also in the Emerald City, an Amazon grocery store went even further by doing away with cashiers. Shoppers’ items are electronically scanned with cameras in the ceilings. As you take your purchases off the shelf, a running tally is charged to your Amazon card.
In both cases, charges are being made electronically, no cash.
Though those examples are not the norm yet, there is no doubt that carrying cash is becoming less important. Or a checkbook, if you can recall those.
Rarely do you find yourself in the checkout line waiting for someone to write a check. And most people now have their pay checks directly deposited into their bank accounts and when they need cash they can go to an ATM, at the bank or elsewhere.
You also can electronically deposit a check into your account via your phone, if need be.
All that has made a trip to the bank less necessary.
As the keepers and lenders of money, financial institutions have had to adjust to these changes. In many ways they have been the leaders of our transformation from checks and cash to cards and other electronic payment methods.
With those changes, banks have changed, as well. In fact the very design and feel of the inside of many banks has transformed.
Those long rows of teller windows are disappearing in some banks and credit unions.
In this issue of Business World, we take a look at today’s banks.
They still are in the business of taking in money and lending it out, but there is far less cash actually changing hands.
The biggest of our local banks, Cashmere Valley Bank, is keeping a foot in both worlds. Their buildings are designed to be familiar and welcoming and not much different than they’ve always been, while at the same time the bank itself is moving with all the rest to keep up with technological advantages and advancements.
Wherever all this is headed (and I won’t even begin to bring cryptocurrency into the discussion), is hardly apparent. Being technology, we can only guess at what’s ahead.
But basic facts will remain: People will need a safe place to put their money, even if they never touch it, and people will need to borrow money.
Thus, the importance of banks and credit unions will not diminish. They may, in fact, become more important than ever. Even if when you walk inside it all looks very different.