Despite the rise in digital payment options, cash persists as a payment method in the United States. Between October 2019 and October 2021, circulating currency in the United States increased by $423 billion, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Also, cash accounted for 20% of all payments and continues to be a primary option for a substantial portion of the population.
Even as cash continues to be a vital payment tool, handling it is a headache for banks. Branch managers manually count, log and balance cash, which leaves banks vulnerable to safety issues and cash leakages due to criminal activity or miscalculations. Bankers must evaluate their cash management processes to save time and money.
What is often overlooked, or taken for granted in the cash management process, is the time it takes a bank to move, count and manage cash. Every time cash moves — from the vault to the teller, teller to teller, or teller to vault — it must be counted and balanced. If even $1 is missing, staff can spend hours counting and recounting.
Cash handling costs are rising and are estimated to account for 5% to 10% of bank costs, even as cash use declines, according to McKinsey & Co. Why? Cash distribution, maintenance and processing require expensive manual labor. Depending on the institution, a single branch will need to handle hundreds of transactions and teller-to-teller exchanges a day and, of course, opening and closing counts of cash. From cash vault to end-of-day tally, the process relies on the precision and accuracy of each count. Say your branch has a counting error. This single error from manual labor can add significant time to your staff’s day. Additionally, manual cash handling is vulnerable to counterfeit currency, tracking errors and theft.
Banks are examining every expense for greater efficiencies as the economic environment potentially turns. It’s critical that they assess the technology budget and balance sheet to ensure their investments go as far as possible. There are a proliferation of cash counting and handling processes that banks implement, but these tend to only oversee one part of the overall cash management process. Banks also often grapple with outdated technology, which is vulnerable to outages or cannot automate simple tasks.
Harnessing technology can eliminate redundancies, automate manual processes, reduce labor expenses and streamline workflows. These changes can also improve staff retention at the crucial frontline level, a huge issue for banks. In a competitive employment environment, eliminating inefficiencies and creating a positive work environment is a priority for banks looking to retain staff. Rather than counting cash by hand or dealing with an unexpected recycler outage, bank executives can leverage solutions that enable their tellers, frontline branch staff, and regional managers to worry less about cash management and focus more on customer experience.
Economic uncertainty means banks need to make tough cost-cutting decisions while thinking about investing in operational efficiency and aligning innovation. To meet employee needs, banks should transform each level of branch operations, especially in the cost centers, such as cash handling. Reimagining branch operations and improving the employee experience and bank operations through automated technologies can help unlock new workflows and solutions.
Fortunately, strategic investments in high-return technology with advanced capabilities can offer immediate benefits. Automating labor-intensive processes and increasing cash visibility at enables banks to save time, leverage scarce resources and focus on creating unique customer experiences, while eliminating pain points and redundant work. As banks further automate mundane tasks, they can optimize staffing levels and maximize profits while serving customers better. By implementing specialized technology to count, dispense and manage cash, banks can improve their accuracy and reduce the costs associated with manual cash handling — ensuring that staff are using both the procedures and technology that best meets clients’ needs with the greatest efficiency.