A long winter for cash? Deutsche Bank says cash is still king

While cash is facing several challenges in the euro area with an increasing number of people moving towards cashless payments and digital banking, the reports of the demise of cash are greatly exaggerated, Deutsche Bank has said in its latest research note.

"Cash is facing many challenges in the euro area. The European Central Bank (ECB) has decided to cease production of the €500 ($532) note due to concerns over its facilitation of illicit activities," the bank said while adding that the cash in circulation is three times more than what it was in 2003.

While many would attribute this to the never-ending stream of money that the central banks have been pumping into the economy through quantitative easing (QE) and ultra-low interest rates, Deutsche Bank's Heike Mai believes that most of the increase in cash since 2008 comes from abroad and hoarders. Cash held outside the euro area was worth €80 billion and cash hoarded domestically by the real economy is estimated to be valued at €120 billion.

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"There are good reasons to believe that cash won't disappear anytime soon from the euro area. First, it is debatable that a cashless society would mean less crime," Mai said, adding, that the ratio of damage caused by card fraud to the value of counterfeit notes in circulation is more than 10 to 1.

"Second, the political value of cash should not be underestimated. Some economies like using cash, for example, Germany, Spain, Italy and Austria. The most robust data protection is provided by cash," Mai, an economist at Deutsche Bank, said in the note.

The research note that focuses on Europe argued that by the end of third-quarter of 2016, euro currency in circulation amounted to €1.1 trillion, three times as much as in the first quarter of 2003. While small-value notes such as €5, €10 and €20 are used to a great extent for day-to-day payments, bigger-value notes such as €50 and €100 are used for both payments and cash hoarding.

Earlier this year, the ECB announced it would no longer produce the €500 note because of concerns it could facilitate illegal activities.

"The issuance of the €500 will be stopped around the end of 2018, when the €100 and €200 banknotes of the Europa series are planned to be introduced. The other denominations – from €5 to €200 – will remain in place," the ECB said in a statement in May this year.

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