‘Cash is still king’: Scotland-based Cashmaster sets up Hong Kong branch for rapid-fire bill counting despite rise of mobile payments

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 23 January, 2016, 2:13pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 23 January, 2016, 2:25pm

In a world increasingly populated by young digital-savvy and always-online people, cashless transactions offer a seamless experience to their daily activities.

A much-publicised study last year by Stockholm’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology said the prevalent use of mobile app-based payment transactions in Sweden is fast-shaping the country’s transition into the world’s first cashless society.

It estimated that less than 80 billion krona (about HK$72.7 billion), down from 106 billion krona about six years ago, were in circulation there.

But the timing of a cashless future in most countries is still far from being realised.

Banks, supermarkets and convenient stores, fast-food shops and other retailers see counting cash and coins in their tills as a vital part of their operations, even as credit card and digital transactions grow.

“Cash, as they say, is still king,” Cashmaster International chief executive Gordon McKie told the Sunday Morning Post.

Cashmaster, with headquarters at Rosyth in Scotland, has just established its regional office in Hong Kong to pioneer the introduction of its count-by-weight devices across the Asia-Pacific.

It makes machines that almost instantly count notes, coins, vouchers, tokens and coupons by weight in batches as an alternative to the slower, traditional friction-type bill-counting devices and the manual counting of money.

“Our clients need to spend less time counting money and more time serving their customers,” McKie said.

“Using count-by-weight products allows organisations to count a till in less than a minute, which helps reduce loss and shrinkage,” he said, using an industry euphemism that encompasses cash which goes missing from the till.

The company’s latest product line, the Cashmaster One, enables users to stack cash or coins in bundles, rolls, cups or bags of up to half a kilo in weight, and count them quickly. Unlike older technology, this new device has no moving parts, runs a proprietary software, a built-in printer, Wi-fi or Ethernet connection, and a colour touch display as interface to programme currency, language and batch volume.

READ MORE: Can the state take China’s mobile payments market in 2016? Experts think not

McKie said the company has started trials of the Scotland-made Cashmaster One in Hong Kong with “a major coffee chain” and is in discussions with other businesses. The device, available in three models, cost from US$600 to US$1,000.

Founded more than 30 years ago, Cashmaster is the global supplier of count-by-weight devices to US-based Starbucks. Its other major customers include McDonald’s, Tesco, AT&T and Australia and New Zealand Bank. It has about 300,000 installed machines worldwide and currently sells about 30,000 machines a year.

McKie said Cashmaster was ahead of its two main competitors, Tellermate and Volumatic, in launching count-by-weight devices in Asia.

Cashmaster’s foray into Asia has come the same year as US technology giant Apple gears up to introduce its mobile payment and digital wallet service, Apple Pay, in Hong Kong, mainland China and Singapore.

READ MORE: Apple Pay coming to China in time for Spring Festival in February if no more hurdles arise, reports say

In Hong Kong, Apple is partnering with American Express to provide Apple Pay to eligible customers of the credit card company in the city. Apple Pay will allow card members to pay on the go with an iPhone, Apple Watch or iPad.

The introduction of Apple Pay in Hong Kong could give a much-needed boost to the adoption of mobile payment systems in the city. Consumers in the city are used to more familiar payment options like cash, bank credit cards or Octopus cards. Plenty of merchants are also wary of making new investments in contactless, point-of-sale readers.