Latvijas Banka, Finance Latvia Association and the banks with the widest network of ATMs and branches – Swedbank AS, AS SEB banka, Latvian branch of Luminor Bank AS and AS Citadele banka – have agreed to continue implementing the measures ensuring access to cash for residents of Latvia in 2023. These measures have been included in the Memorandum of Cooperation signed in autumn 2021.
Cash still retains its role in day-to-day payments. Along with non-cash payments, it is an additional element of economic security in the current geopolitical conditions. European and Latvian legislation clearly provides that cash will remain legal tender, with several restrictions on the use of cash introduced in association with the measures to combat the shadow economy and money laundering.
Ensuring withdrawal of euro banknotes, ATMs are the main sources of the population's access to cash in Latvia.
The financial sector agreed on the measures ensuring access to cash in September 2021. The first year of the Memorandum has brought positive experience with the set goals being achieved. There were 902 ATMs in Latvia during the drafting of the Memorandum. A year later, in autumn 2022, their number has seen an insignificant decrease (by less than 1%) – to 897. This is significantly below the reduction criterion (5%) allowed by the Memorandum. The closest ATM is in a distance of below 5 km for over 80% of Latvia's population.
According to the population survey conducted by Latvijas Banka and SIA Latvijas Fakti in August 2022, the level of public satisfaction with the availability of cash is increasing. Within a year, the share of people satisfied with their possibilities of withdrawing cash from their accounts has risen from 82% to 84%. At the same time, there is a continuous decline in the share of respondents dissatisfied with the possibilities of withdrawing cash from their accounts. In August 2021, 11% of respondents expressed their discontent compared with 10% in February 2022 and just merely 8% in August.
An agreement to continue implementing the measures ensuring access to cash for residents of Latvia in 2023 has been reached.
Following up on the implementation of the Memorandum, its signatories agreed on the following course of action:
- preserve the existing network of ATMs and refrain from reducing the number of ATMs by more than 5% until 1 January 2024;
- when creating the network of ATMs, the straight-line distance from any location in Latvia to the closest ATM should overall not exceed 20 kilometres for 99% of Latvia's population;
- ensure adequate actual accessibility of ATMs to consumers (at least 12 hours a day).
"Digital technologies have seen a particularly rapid development over the most recent years and it will be even faster in the future, thus helping Latvia strengthen its international competitiveness, yet the circulation of cash still has its role in the economy; therefore, daily access to adequate amounts of cash needs to be ensured, to be used at the discretion of the customers of banks. The Memorandum incorporates the core cooperation principles to ensure access to cash previously adopted by the Finance Latvia Association. From now on, more work should be dedicated to awareness, providing information and compatibility of various solutions used by banks, in order to ensure constant modernisation, export capacity and fair competition among banks and other financial service providers, limit the circulation of illegal cash and reduce the shadow economy", highlights Sanita Bajāre, Chairwoman of the Board at the Finance Latvia Association.
"Cash is part of the critical financial sector infrastructure; therefore, we continue our cooperation with the sector to implement the measures ensuring access to cash in "times of peace" and be ready to ensure the population's access to its money in times of crisis", stresses Zita Zariņa, Member of the Council of Latvijas Banka. "Cash is and will remain a significant payment and savings instrument. The development of non-cash means of payment will not change this situation; the public will only benefit from extended and complemented freedom of choice and convenience."
Latvijas Banka takes care of the implementation of the measures to ensure access to cash; the map solution concerning all ATMs installed across Latvia providing an opportunity for the population to find the closest ATM for cash withdrawal has been also developed and is available at: https://www.bank.lv/pakalpojumi/bankomatu-karte. To strengthen the resilience of Latvia's financial sector against crisis, the ATM map will be updated with a new functionality showing the ATMs to be supplied with cash first in case of crisis and endangerment. It is available at: https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/edit?mid=1LMDFH0RI84QYnrFXZy0HO_Fq0pLyCNph&usp=sharing.