High denomination notes also make it easier to withdraw large sums from bank accounts, in particular towards the end of the year when the Swiss must declare their wealth on their bank statements. Fritz Zurbruegg rejected the idea that the 1,000-franc note was used more often than others by criminals, but accepted that while shoppers’ demand for cash increases at Christmas, it could also be because “studies also show other factors like possible tax evasion”.
Patrick Comboeuf of the Institute of Digital Business at HWZ University of Applied Sciences in Zurich and board member of Fintechrockers, a think tank created by a diverse group of activists, believes that Switzerland will move away from cash in time.
“The biggest lever towards a more efficient adoption of cashless payments is a top-notch user experience. Unfortunately, this is also the most neglected in any of the concepts available in Switzerland today,” he says. But he believes the digital era is shifting power from the financial services industry to consumers, leading to a greater focus on customer service.
Cryptocurrency and blockchain technology remain hot topics for Swiss start-ups and established companies alike, and a recent study by Lucerne University found that Swiss fintech growth accelerated significantly in 2018 both in terms of the number of companies and the venture capital invested.
Jonathan Rea, CEO of Foinder, a Swiss-based business consultancy, believes any mass adoption of a cryptocurrency as a replacement for day-to-day transactions is at least a decade away. “For mass adoption to take place it depends on the trade-off between privacy, convenience, self-identity and the perceived value of cash as a protection against going into debt,” he says.
For now, many Swiss still value the anonymity and freedom that cash affords them. The new notes are making their way out into the world. Simply put, they are items of beauty. That’s if you can keep them in your wallet long enough.
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