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ESTA statement of 8 March 2022

Dear Sirs,

In view of the situation in Ukraine and its impact on the payment system, ESTA (The Cash Management Companies Association) has published its statement. Its content is presented below.

Demand for Cash at a time of war in Ukraine 

Statement – 8 March 2022

Two weeks ago, war began at the Eastern border of the EU. The main impact on cash demand, observed
by the CMC industry, is seen in the Baltic states (Lithuania and Latvia notably, less so in Estonia), the
Nordic States, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Switzerland where cash demand has significantly
increased. In other countries, no meaningful consequences can yet be seen.
A declaration of a state of emergency has been made in Lithuania and Latvia with a threat of possible
attacks on the financial system, leading to a substantial increase in cash demand. In the Nordic states,
cash demand has increased by 20% in Finland and Norway and 30% in Sweden.
The purpose of increased cash demand is storage of value/precautionary purposes as no significant
differences can be seen on transactional cash.
The situation in Switzerland is that there is a very strong increase in the demand for Euros but the
demand for Swiss Francs remains stable.
In Slovakia, there is a surge of approximately 25-30% in ATMs replenishments in the country, especially
on the East side at the border with Ukraine, where the increase is in excess of 30%.
In the Czech Republic, there has been a 15-20% increase in ATMs replenishments in the country
(despite the absence of a border with Ukraine) and also a massive increase in currency transports (EUR,
USD), and a doubling of shipments from Austria and Switzerland.
No report could be made by ESTA on the situation in Romania and Poland, which are more directly
impacted by the flow of refugees from Ukraine.
Cash, once more, shows its critical importance in times of crisis and uncertainty. Users in countries
which seem to have forgotten about it, such as Sweden, rediscover the need for a sound and sustainable
cash infrastructure.
Too much electronic money in an economy is a vulnerability, not a strength. The example of Russia is
telling. The three dominant card operators in the world have decided to suspend their operations in
Russia, making card payments almost impossible in the country. ESTA has no view on the reasons for
the suspension of their activities, but simply notes that foreign companies have the power to decide on
whether the domestic electronic payment infrastructure operates or not. The same situation could
happen in the EU, which has an electronic payment system also dominated by the same non-European,
multinational firms. Whilst the EU banking sector develops its own card system through the European
Payment Initiative, cash remains the only instrument of payments that allows the EU to maintain at short
term its payment sovereignty.
Cash is a volume driven business and a critical mass is needed to ensure that it is sustainable, efficient
and available to all. The Ukraine crisis is just a strong reminder that cash needs to be preserved,
because no one can predict when all else may fail.