Cash will remain a part of our day-to-day lives for decades, the Bank of England’s chief cashier has said on the 50th anniversary of the ATM.
Victoria Cleland said that although the use of notes and coins in transactions is falling, cash is part of all the Bank’s future plans.
She pointed out that 94% of UK adults use cash machines.
It was 50 years ago today that the world’s first ATM was unveiled at a Barclays branch in Enfield, London.
As a tribute to the golden anniversary, Barclays has transformed the modern-day Enfield cash machine into gold.
Ms Cleland said that more than half of UK adults use an ATM at least once a week.
Cash was used in nearly half of all transactions and was also important as a store of value, she added.
Raheel Ahmed, head of customer experience at Barclays, echoed Ms Cleland’s views.
“Even though recent years have seen a huge uptake of digital banking and card payments, cash remains a crucial part of most people’s day-to-day lives – whether it is paying for groceries or doing the office coffee run – and we’re very proud of the role that Barclays has played in the history of the cash machine.”
The first cash machine came about after some hurried signing of contracts, over a pink gin, between Barclays and Scottish inventor John Shepherd-Barron, who died in 2010.
“It struck me there must be a way I could get my own money, anywhere in the world or the UK,” he told the BBC in 2007. “I hit upon the idea of a chocolate bar dispenser, but replacing chocolate with cash.”
All did not go entirely to plan with the first ATMs. When one was installed in Zurich, Switzerland, there was a mysterious malfunction. Eventually, it was found that wires from two intersecting tramlines nearby were interfering with the mechanism.
There are now about 70,000 cash machines across the UK, and 176 million cards in the UK that can be used to withdraw cash at them.
These cards were used to withdraw a total of £180bn from UK cash machines last year.
The latest developments aim to make the ATM a “bank branch in a box”. Manufacturer NCR said its research showed that 80% of the transactions typically completed inside a physical branch could be completed through a video teller at an ATM.
Portugal has the highest proportion of cash machines in western Europe with 1,516 machines per one million residents.
Sweden, typical of a Scandinavian shift towards a cashless society, has the lowest with 333 machines per one million inhabitants.