A key figure in FinTech has warned that advancements in payment technology could leave many people in society behind.

Speaking before the release of a major independent report which found more than eight million UK adults would struggle to cope in a cashless society, Imran Ali, head of payments at digital transformation consultancy Answer Digital, warned that the older generation and people with mental illness are particularly vulnerable.

The Access to Cash Review, funded by cash machine network Link but complied independently from it, said the country’s cash infrastructure is in danger of collapsing, with many bank branches and cash machines disappearing on our high streets as Britons increasingly turn to digital payments. 

Chaired by the former head of the Financial Ombudsman Service Natalie Ceeney, the report - which predicted that cash could fall to just 10 per cent of all payments within the next 15 years - also called for the establishment of organisations providing essential services to ensure consumers can continue to pay by cash.

Ali says tech giants such as Google, Apple and Facebook have ‘mastered the art of interaction’ but banks are yet to reach the same level – and that could be of detriment to certain people.

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Imran Ali

“We need to think about those that could be more vulnerable in our society,” he told BusinessCloud. “The older generation or those with mental illness may be unable to use financial products.

“It's very clunky online and you have to go through multiple steps. Even when you're paying by a card, if you get redirected to 3D secure, you're now having to type in details again in order to go through that process: there's a very high dropout rate as the process slows.

“It’s about how you balance ease of access and ease of use with having the right security in place and I don't think anybody has quite cracked it yet.

“With technology nowadays, the ability for you to be able to put your fingerprint on your smartphone actually helps to make that process a lot more efficient, but you can’t shy away from the fact that you are still going to need a level of security.”

Leeds-based Answer Digital, which has been helping companies improve their use of tech in business for 19 years, recently hosted a breakfast event in Leeds to discuss the impact of real-time payments, mobile technology and open banking on different sectors.

Speaking following the event, Ali said: “We're all racing ahead and paying with Apple Pay nowadays – but what about those that could be getting left behind?

“Good points were made around how the regulator has a responsibility to ensure that all aspects of society are being benefited by these changes, that's something I think is very important to consider.”

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Ali interviewed more than 200 people for whitepaper ‘The Impact of the Changing Payments Landscape on Multiple Sectors’ in 2018.

Interviewees included company giants such as Google Pay, Hello Fresh and The Post Office to find out how changes to payments are impacting their businesses.

“Overall the conclusion from the findings is that these changes are happening: we are seeing new innovation such as open banking and real time payments, and so companies really need to start thinking about how their strategy is in line,” he said.

Answer Digital has worked with NHS Digital, Costcutter and challenger bank BankNorth.