Money & Banking

With robust demand for cash at ATMs, it’s business as usual for cash logistics players

Surabhi Mumbai | Updated on March 25, 2020

The ministry’s model rules include use of specially-designed and fabricated cash vans   -  File photo

But amid lockdown, cash-carrying vans may face some challenges in getting through to replenish ATMs

Amidst social distancing and now the national lockdown, demand for cash has been quite strong with many withdrawing extra money to keep at home as a safety option. Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced that there will be no charges on ATM withdrawals for three months and it’s business as usual for cash logistics companies, which have been working to ensure that ATMs are fully loaded around the country.

“There has been robust demand for cash. On the day before Janata Curfew on March 22, we were operating at about 125 per cent of our capacity. Most people expected that the curfew would be extended in some manner and they were equipping themselves with currency. Even now it is about 80 per cent, we are not seeing any dip,” said Anush Raghavan, Senior Vice-President at CMS Info Systems.

V Balasubramaniam, President of ATM Managed Services at FSS, said cash withdrawals fell by about 80 per cent on the day of the Janata Curfew but is continuing at a normal pace on most days.

“On March 24, transactions were at 80 per cent. We need to keep monitoring for the next 10 days at least and expect more withdrawals once salaries get credited. We expect that till April 8, there will be transaction growth,” he said.

Rustom Irani, MD and CEO of Cash Business, Hitachi Payment Services, said the company is working closely with banks and partners to ensure uninterrupted supply of cash at ATMs.

“It is our responsibility to ensure that cash is available across our network, and we are working towards this on a war-footing. We understand that for end-customers, access to money and banking services is essential,” he said.

The cash logistics industry had been preparing for a quarantine and lockdown-type situation for at least the last two weeks as many industry players are multinational companies and were able to forewarn their Indian peers about global developments.

According to Raghavan, cash logistics players as an industry had prepared back-up plans for such an event almost two to three weeks back.

Safety of personnel

But while servicing ATMs is just one part of their job, ensuring the safety of their own personnel is also crucial along with ensuring a hassle-free commute for them.

Players have been giving hand sanitisers and gloves to personnel who handle cash.

The World Health Organization has said that currency notes may not be spreading the coronavirus. The Indian Banks’ Association has advised cash logistics companies to ensure that their personnel use gloves while handling cash, Balasubramaniam said.

“We are taking strict hygiene measures. Frequency of maintaining ATM site cleanliness has been increased and in some places we also do multiple times a day, depending on the usage. This includes sanitising the lobby, ATM keypads, door handles etc,” Irani said.

New challenges

But amidst the lockdown, ensuring that the police allow cash vans to operate has been a challenge in many areas, the companies said. Further, many residential societies and families are not allowing members to venture out due to the worry about Covid19. “Our staff has to cajole and reassure them that this will not be the case,” said one executive.

The Finance Ministry has also written to States urging them to ensure that that staff of banks, RBI, NPCI and cash handling companies can commute easily to ensure there is no disruption of services.

Published on March 25, 2020

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