March 2021

Commercial focus: Banking update from Martin Kearsley

Hello everyone. It feels as though weeks have barely passed, much less a month since my last update. Boris has of course outlined a roadmap for the gradual easing of restrictions since then and whilst I am under no illusion that it will be plain sailing, I’m hopeful there is light at the end of what has felt like a very long and dark tunnel.

Over the last month or so I have been engaged in several regional Postmaster events. It’s always great to participate in these and hear first-hand from Postmasters on local issues, as well as broader business challenges which are always welcome. There’s usually a great mix of questions and though some of these are shared after the events due to time constraints, I endeavour to answer them. There were also a couple of questions posted on my last blog which you can find answers to below.

Questions & Answers

Firstly, thank you to Hardev and Emma for their questions on last month’s blog, answers to which are below.

Martin, banking indeed has been a very successful addition to our suite of products. To some extent it has been almost too successful because the volume of cash being deposited and processed for returning uses considerable staff time. If one does the analysis the renumeration earned is often less than cost of the staff (to the postmaster) in processing the money for REM collection. The post office should help by issuing the larger offices with the bank type of cash handling machines to speed up the process. Better for the customer better for the PO. Also gives a more professional look to the whole process.
It is our absolute intention to equip the larger offices and most heavily used offices with the technology to make the Postmaster, colleague and customer experience far better. Less time at the counter, less time counting, safe removal from circulation (within the branch) and easier end of day declarations should all come from that programme. This will involve the deployment of the right kind of equipment to rapidly, and securely count, filter (for counterfeits) and store cash with absolute accuracy. We hope to have that equipment defined, approved and coming into action in the next 9-12 months. In some instances (for instance smaller devices like more modern note counter) sooner.

Do you think there will be a time when cheque deposits to accounts will be able to be done with a debit card? It would make the transaction so much easier as many customers do not have paying in slips.
We are reviewing the entire method by which cheques can be accepted either as Method of Payment as well as Deposit to Bank Account cheques. While the solution cannot be debit card linked (we take in unknown volumes of cheques inside the envelopes, so the impact on the counter of doing individual deposits is an unknown at present) we are working on completely revamping how our cheque proposition works.

Thank you for your continued hard work in supporting customers with their cash needs. If you have any questions or suggestions, please submit a comment below and I will provide an update in my next blog.

Read on to see what else is happening in banking.

Ten Minute Rule Bill
You may have seen in Amanda’s email last week that MP for North Norfolk and former Postmaster, Duncan Baker, put forward a Ten Minute Rule Bill in the House of Commons on legislating for banks to provide banking services through the Post Office network. During his speech, Duncan commended the hard work of Postmasters and the need for the Banking Framework to be supported formally by Government. We supported Duncan in preparing to put the motion forward alongside the NFSP and will be continuing to work with Treasury as they consider their response to the Access to Cash consultation.

ATM Strategy
In October 2020, we announced our ATM investment programme ensuring that millions of people continue to have access to free to use ATMs and demonstrating our commitment to free access to cash for consumers.

The transformation programme will see Post Office taking over circa 1,400 Bank of Ireland ATMs later this year, with the transition completing by March 2022. This will be followed by an ATM replacement programme that will result in us operating some of the most modern and secure, free-to-use devices in the UK.  We will shortly be communicating next steps with branches that will be retaining their ATMs.

Last week via Branch Focus we shared details of how TimeSaver will operate with branches who previously signed up to offer the fast deposit service for business customers. I’m pleased to share that we are close to launching and will be commencing the allocation of customers to branches shortly, with a view to gradually increasing the number of branches taking part as we sign more banks onto the service.

Post Office Cash Tracker – February
The latest data from our February Cash Tracker continues to show the impact the pandemic is having on small businesses and the self-employed, who rely on Post Offices to deposit their takings. Whilst cash deposits overall were flat month-on-month, business cash deposits were down 34% compared to February 2020.

You can find the full Post Office Cash Tracker for February here.