Cash: Developing a gold medal strategy for Rio

The 2016 Olympics in Rio are set to be another huge sporting event for Brazil following the 2014 Football World Cup and events such as these often can put a great amount of strain on a wide range of public services in the host country. Not only are infrastructure and services under pressure, but there is also a vast spike in cash usage that automated teller machine (ATM) service providers, banks and others in the supply chain must endeavour to meet as most venues prefer cash for transactions.

Cash leads the race

Visa recently unveiled a payment ring that will allow Team Visa athletes to make purchases by tapping their ring at any near field communication (NFC)-capable payment terminal in Rio. Despite a constantly evolving payments landscape thanks to the growth of digital, cash remains a dominant payment method around the world. Cash transactions still make up 85% of all those made globally (MasterCard/McKinsey) and although society is becoming more tech-savvy, cash is still seen as a convenient and flexible way to pay.

This is especially true for Brazil, where cash use is high. Boa Vista released data that showed 65% of Brazilians still prefer to pay with cash over other payment methods, while 70% still do not have a bank account. Visitors must therefore be prepared for the fact that taxi drivers and most businesses in and around Rio only speak the language of cash. Having enough Brazilian real (BRL) to ensure payment is accepted is incredibly important, so fans can get the most out of this once in a lifetime experience.

It is not just consumers who must come prepared, in the lead up to the Olympics. Banks must be ready to have enough cash to meet demand, as well as have the resources to manage the cash once transactions have taken place. Ensuring that the right cash and logistics infrastructure is in place is paramount to the success of the Games, and managing the influx of cash will be a challenge that needs to be met.

Strategy is key

Following the success of the London Olympics in 2012, Rio must follow and build on the careful planning, communication and collaboration that were essential four years ago. As a country with one of the largest ATM networks in the world, the 160,000 machines in Brazil, banks and ATM deployers must ensure availability to meet peak demand for service.

Customers demand access to cash wherever and whenever they want, expecting services to integrate seamlessly into their everyday lives, and financial institutions (FIs) must ensure that all cash points – including branches, vaults, ATMs and other automated devices – are stocked with adequate amounts of cash. For Brazil to remain competitive in the reputation stakes of Olympic Games, the country must integrate technologies to forecast currency levels, monitor self-service devices, track and reconcile cash. The increase in demand must be carefully monitored and swift action must be taken to avoid any reputational risk that could come with running out of cash; empty cash machines lead to customer inconvenience and a negative brand experience.

Deploying a successful cash management and device management strategy can increase customer satisfaction and reduce operational costs and risks. Institutions that can quickly resolve problems in real-time not only avoid customer disappointment, something which will undoubtedly be front of mind for FIs during the Olympics.

Managing the security risk

With any large sporting event, the potential for an increase in criminal activity remains high. Therefore, while making sure there is enough cash available to meet consumer demand, suppliers of cash need to carefully consider their security strategy. Deploying methods such as varying the timings of cash deliveries with extra security personal is vital, and reduces the risk of criminals taking advantage of predictable cash travel times.

Planning logistics to avoid criminal activity is also essential in enhancing security for attendees. Visitors must also be aware of their surroundings when withdrawing and using cash while at the Games by checking ATMs and the surrounding areas for anything unusual. In addition, visitors should look out for the relevant Visa, MasterCard, Cirrus and Maestro logos at ATM machines in order to guarantee compatibility with their card.

Despite the evolving payments landscape, cash remains dominant due to its reliability and simplicity.  With the Olympics soon upon us, banks need to make sure that they are aware of not only cash forecasting to deliver sufficient funds to the thousands of visitors, but also implementing effective risk management strategies to reduce fraud risks. Having the right cash strategy ahead of the Games is essential to make sure visitors can access cash no matter when or where they are, without disruption to their Olympics experience.

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