UK businesses ‘should prepare for plastic banknotes’

New Polymer £10 Banknote Sir Winston Churchill design concept

The start of the UK’s transition from paper to polymer banknotes later this year means British businesses will face the biggest upheaval in the currency since the introduction of the pound coin in 1983, it is claimed.

The firm of Cummins Allison, which supplies coin and cash sorters, says that the launch of the new £5 notes in September – to be followed by new pound coins and £10 notes in 2017 – means the money counting machines that many businesses rely on to accurately process cash must be replaced or updated.

Employees must also be trained both to recognise the new currency and identify fakes. With full technical details and training materials available three months before introduction, organisations need to make the best use of this time to upgrade their currency processing equipment to avoid slower or reduced business and an increased risk of accepting counterfeit currency.

“The new £5 note marks the beginning of a dramatic strategy for increasing the counterfeit resilience of UK currency, with potentially significant impact for businesses,” said Andrew Crowson, managing director of Cummins Allison UK.

“When any new currency is introduced, it’s important to eliminate the chance for human error and guess work when counting cash and identifying forgeries. Without reliable technology, staff may make mistakes that result in the organisation mis-counting cash or unwittingly accepting forged currency.

“Our recommendation is for organisations to update their cash counting machines as soon as possible to minimise the risks associated with the new currencies. This also gives them optimal time to train employees and be fully prepared when the new notes and coins are issued.”

The Bank of England (BoE) proposed in September 2013 that the UK follow the lead of countries such as Australia and Canada in replacing paper banknotes with polymer ones that remain cleaner, reduce the risk of counterfeiting, and are more durable.

The new polymer substrate and enhanced counterfeit features will make it harder to produce accurate forgeries, comments Cummins Allison. UK businesses will need to educate their workers both on how to identify the new notes and reassure consumers who may be confused by the new currency; and also how to recognise the new security features and what would signify a fake.

At the same time, machines designed to accept currency must be updated both to deal with new security features and the new notes’ different size, texture and tendency to cling together due to static.

Following the new £5 note’s introduction in September, the old paper notes will be phased out of circulation in 2017; when new one pound coins and polymer £10 notes will also be introduced. The new £20 note is due to be introduced in 2020, along with the removal of old £10 notes from circulation.

“This is a long-term project; one businesses will find much easier if they get the first steps right,” said Crowson. “Success in dealing with the new £5 note this year will make for a much easier transition in 2017, as both businesses and the public adapt to new coins, new notes and familiar old notes being withdrawn.

“We can then focus on the real benefits that polymer currency will bring; for instance, the greater difficulty of counterfeiting will pay dividends in 2020 when the new £20 note, by far the most forged currency, is introduced.”

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