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Cash infrastructure is vulnerable to market changes

Published: 14 March 2024

In order for cash services to work and for cash to be used, an underlying infrastructure based on cooperation between the Riksbank, the banks and cash-in-transit companies is needed. In somewhat simplified terms, this infrastructure works as follows.

  • The Riksbank manufactures new cash, destroys worn-out cash and maintains stocks (depots) where banks, bank-owned companies and cash-processing companies can collect and deposit cash.
  • Banks are collectively responsible for providing places where private persons can withdraw cash and companies can deposit cash into their accounts. The bank-owned company Bankomat AB (Bankomat) has been tasked with monitoring the availability of cash services and, if necessary, proposing measures for banks to fulfil their responsibilities. Bankomat operates a majority of all ATMs in Sweden, which you can read more about in Section Cash is rarely used and the supply of cash services is decreasing. Bankomat also have private banknote depots for its own use.
  • Cash-in-transit companies work on behalf of the Riksbank, banks, stores, Bankomat and other companies. They sort, count, register and transport cash. Loomis Sverige AB (Loomis) is currently the only cash-in-transit company in Sweden. In addition, Loomis is responsible for the majority of all service boxes, which account for just under half of all daily takings deposit locations in Sweden. You can read more about this in Section Cash is rarely used and the supply of cash services is decreasing.

The cash management chain can be described as both robust and vulnerable at the same time. On the one hand, there are cash depots, withdrawal and deposit points, transport vehicles and cash management centres scattered throughout the country. Cash management as a whole need not therefore be affected if individual locations are not available.

On the other hand, only the Riksbank and some banks have a statutory responsibility to fulfil their parts, i.e. to issue cash (the Riksbank) and to offer a sufficient range of cash services to the public (the banks). For the cash management chain to work, it is important that all actors play their part in the chain and there is no legal responsibility for banks to, for example, offer cash distribution to individual companies. This type of service is also important for the functioning of infrastructure throughout the country. Those parts of the infrastructure are therefore particularly vulnerable and fully dependent on Loomis.

Neither is there any legal requirement for private persons to be able to deposit cash into an account.

Increased uncertainty in the cash management market going forward

Cash management is associated with high fixed costs. This makes it more difficult for companies that handle cash to scale down their operations to meet reduced demand. For example, the cost of a cash transport is basically the same whether it is full or half full. At the same time, revenues are halved. As the use of cash declines, it has become increasingly difficult for those who handle cash to make a profit.

Today, Bankomat relies on Loomis to manage its private banknote depots and to replenish and empty ATMs. However, in November 2022, Bankomat announced that as of the second half of 2025 it will start its own cash management operation and thus perform these services itself. How this will affect the market for cash management services as a whole is currently uncertain.

The dominance of two private companies, Bankomat and Loomis, in the cash chain is problematic. Loomis has no statutory responsibility to offer cash services on the Swedish market, but the maintenance of its operations is based on profitability calculations. Moreover, the fact that only two companies are active in cash management, with near monopolies in their respective parts of the market, means that it is very sensitive to disruptions in their respective operations. If one of the companies is unable to fulfil its tasks, it is difficult for another to quickly take its place.

Risk of automated cash management making life difficult for companies

Management of daily takings in Sweden is increasingly carried out via deposit machines, which you can read more about in Section Cash is rarely used and the supply of cash services is decreasing. The Riksbank has received indications that companies that accept cash feel that the upper limit for how much cash they can deposit in the machines on each occasion or during a certain period is too low and is on a par with the amount of cash deposits that private persons can make. In addition, there is no possibility to deposit coins in the machines. Overall, this means that the situation for companies or associations handling cash has clearly deteriorated as the number of service boxes and manual deposit services has decreased.

This development could make it even more costly and complicated for companies to accept cash. This, in turn, may lead to more companies choosing to stop accepting cash. It is therefore very important for the circulation of cash in society that banks do not set unreasonably low limits for deposits of daily takings. There is also a need for more possibilities for companies and associations to deposit coins into their accounts, as this is not possible in deposit machines.