1. Why are you doing this?

The nature of banking and finance has changed hugely over the past decade, leading to the closure of many bank branches and a reduction in the number of ATMs. However, we know that people still need cash, and that these changes have caused challenges for many communities. We want to find out how we can keep cash accessible, both for individuals and small businesses, whether by using well-trodden approaches (such as ATMs) or new approaches. We want to use the lessons from these pilots to inform national solutions.

2. Can’t I just ask for my bank branch back?

It’s natural to ask for what we know, and what we used to have. However, there are actually a number of ways that people can access cash or deposit cash. It could be via a Post Office counter, or through cashback in a shop or pub. You might have existing services which aren’t meeting needs because of its location, such as an ATM which is not used because the street lighting to it is poor.

People may not be aware of services which exist already, such as getting cashback or making a deposit at a Post Office. For small businesses who need to deposit their takings, there are solutions other than going to a bank branch, such as deposit taking ATMs, or even persuading a large local retailer to take in cash. These are just a few of the options available.

We know that in many communities, people would also like to use digital payments, but there is a reason that they can’t. Our aim is to keep cash viable and also to give people choice. Some solutions might be to help give people confidence making digital payments through support or training by a trusted provider.

These are just some ideas, but the answers for your community will be determined by and with you. We promise to listen closely to what you tell us.

3. What do we need to do to become a pilot community?

You will need to complete an application form and submit it by midnight on Friday 1 May 2020 [Now extended until midnight on 1 June 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis]. We are looking for:

  • Evidence of need within your community. E.g. is there a group of people who currently struggle to access cash, or bank cash? Have you seen services close, and no viable replacement? Do you have people who are vulnerable (e.g. older and housebound, disabled, on low incomes) who are struggling because of a lack of cash services? How many people would a better local cash infrastructure help?
  • Evidence of leadership. This will only succeed with your support. We need you to tell us what resources you will put behind working with us, in terms of people and time. The broader the support base the better – if you can secure the support of people with local influence and power, it is likely to help us make changes for the better.
  • An open mind. We want to work with communities to find innovative solutions. The answer might be new, or it might be something we already know (such as cashback). However, we want to approach this with an open mind, and not just do what we’ve always done.

4. I know what we need – we need an ATM. Is this the right place to apply?

No. There is a separate ‘Request an ATM’ scheme, run by LINK, which is looking at applications which are just for an ATM. Please click here to connect to the relevant page on LINK’s website.

5. Who is eligible to apply?

Any individual can apply. We encourage applicants to gather a wide range of support for bids, as we will take breadth of support and evidence of leadership into account as we make our decisions. Please don’t apply multiple times for the same community – it will concern us that you’re not joined up, rather than evidencing need.

6. What’s the timescale for this work?

The applications window will close at midnight on Friday 1 May 2020 [Now extended until midnight on 1 June 2020 in response to the COVID-19 crisis].

Our independent Board will decide which pilot communities to select from May and we will provide a public update via this website on the successful applicants in due course.

We will then work with the pilot communities over the course of 2020, first to understand local needs and develop possible solutions, and finally to implement agreed solutions.

7. How many communities will you select?

That depends on the bids we receive. We expect to support between 5 and 20 communities, but a large community will take more resource than a small one, so we will decide based on the quality of the bids and the work required to support them.

8. Who decides which communities are accepted, and what is funded?

Although funding is coming from the banking and finance industry, this is an independently run initiative. We have formed a Board to oversee this work which is chaired by someone independent of industry (Natalie Ceeney CBE, who chaired the Access to Cash Review). The Board has equal numbers of consumer group or customer representatives as those from the banking and finance industry. The Board will decide which communities to support, and how funding is allocated.

The Board members come from the following organisations:

    • Banking and finance representatives (Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, Sainsbury’s Bank, Santander UK)
    • Small business representative (Federation of Small Businesses)
    • Consumer representatives (Fairer Finance, Access to Cash Review)

9. Our solution will require some financial investment, how will you help us with this?

We will need to understand what you propose before that decison is made. Once we have a clear view of what is needed, we will support successful applicants in proposing solutions to the Board, with costs attached. We will then assess those proposals and decide how to allocate funding.