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Paul Ferris, Product Manager at Wincor Nixdorf UK/I

The launch of the £5 polymer note caused quite a stir when circulation started in September this year. Social media was awash – literally – with people attempting to tear, squash, mark and wash the new notes.Consumers marvelled at its appearance and were excited when their first polymer ‘fiver’ was passed to them over the bank counter, with their change at the shops, or at an ATM.

Paul Ferris

Paul Ferris

What has been exciting for consumers hasn’t been a simple switch for financial institutions. Behind the scenes, banks, building societies and independent ATM deployers have had to invest in vast amounts of planning and infrastructure updates in order to prepare for the new note.

Banknotes printed on polymer substrate have already been issued successfully in over 25 countries across the globe. However, the pressure for a successful introduction of the substrate has never been greater than in the UK – the first of the ten largest economies in the world to introduce polymer banknotes.

Investing for the future

The main reasons for the Bank of England pressing ahead with the polymer transition are the beliefs that these notes are cleaner, more secure and more durable than paper notes. It is estimated that the new notes can last at least 2.5 times longer than paper ones, with the ability to carry new security features which will make the notes even harder to counterfeit.

Fraudsters around the world that have attempted to make replicas of other country’s polymer notes have found that printing onto plastic is far more difficult than paper. The polymer note also includes reflective metallic strips that are complex to create and apply convincingly.

Polymer has arrived at a time of wider change in the banking and finance industry, and with this change comes the chance for banks to invest in the future of their sector too. Polymer notes give financial institutions the opportunity to ensure their customers have a choice of payment options, and increased security in the cash they use every day. It is the future of our economy.

With the Bank of England committed to introducing the £10 polymer note by the summer of 2017 and the £20 polymer note by 2020, financial organisations need to be ready when the next deadline hits.

The following tips are designed to help banks and financial institutions prepare for not only the new £10 note, but the polymer revolution.

  • Make a plan now…and stick to it

With the introduction of the new £5 note, financial institutions quickly learned that planning was essential and it will be an even bigger challenge for the new £10 note with a greater number of these higher denomination notes in use. Financial institutions need to plan ahead to ensure they can accept the notes in their operations, but unlike many other industry changes that can be implemented in a window of time, the £10 launch is a hard deadline. 

  • Know your infrastructure inside-out

The £10 polymer notes will affect software and hardware, as well as processes for cash deposit, cash recycling and cash out, with the new notes being smaller and lighter than their paper counterparts.  Be aware of the potential complexities in your infrastructure and plan accordingly. 

  • Educate your staff

It’s important to communicate to staff internally about the latest changes, not only to ensure a smooth transition but staff are often on the front-line with customer communication. Make sure your teams are aware of what to do when the new notes hit and how to support customers when they do. 

  • Get advice from your vendors

With the UK adopting polymer for the first time, it’s good to put the switch in the context of wider global industry change. Seek advice from vendors that operate globally – especially Australia, which was one of the first countries to adopt polymer, and Canada, which is the most recent country to do so.  There’s a wide range of key learnings to take from the experiences these two countries have had in switching to polymer.  

  • Think of polymer as part of your long-term strategy

Finally, it’s important organisations don’t just plan for polymer, but plan for the wider context of innovation and change over the next 10 years in the UK banking sector. For example, it’s expected that that the introduction of polymer notes in the UK will bring with it a durable influence on the future of cash. Despite the fact that the concept of a cashless society is all the rage in the media, cash is still seen as a vital (and sometimes preferred) payment method for consumers as it’s secure, tangible, trusted and reliable.

With the summer 2017 deadline for the launch of the new £10 polymer looming, it is likely that financial institutions are already well on their way in the planning process. However, every bank has a different infrastructure, so getting it right requires meticulous preparation. Keeping these tips in mind will help banks to be prepared for this exciting change in the future of UK banking.

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