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The ICA – a Voice for Cash, a Voice for Mints?

01 October 2018

Both during the last MDC in South Korea and during the last Technical Forum in Berlin, Dieter Merkle from Schuler presented the International Currency Association (ICA), in his capacity as a Board member of this new organisation. He outlined its general activities and introduced its Cash Matters campaign (www.cashmatters.org), which promotes cash as an integral part of the payment landscape now and in future.

 

While all players from the banknote supplier and security printing industries are represented in the ICA, Schuler remains the only coin-related company involved. Mint News Quarterly asked the ICA Chairman, Dr Wolfram Seidemann, whether it would make sense for mints and their supplying industry to join this association.

 

Q: Could you summarize in three sentences what the International Currency Association, stands for?

A: The International Currency Association (ICA) brings together participants in the international currency market, with the explicit aim of supporting and promoting the role of cash within the broader payment eco-system.

The ICA is behind a global pro-cash campaign, ‘Cash Matters’, communicating the continuing benefits of currency in a changing payments landscape and promoting cash as an integral part of modern life, with all its attendant benefits of reliability, security, privacy, freedom of choice and financial inclusion.

As the efficiency of cash and the cash cycle is a major topic for the currency industry, the ICA provides its members with information on standardisation and best practices as well as on political and technical developments affecting the industry. The association also supplies platforms for knowledge exchange, such as expert committees and its future conference.

 

Q: In your mission statements you emphasise that you ensure innovation as well as the best commercial and technical practices. What is the major criterion that distinguishes you from the Mint Directors Conference?

A: The MDC focuses on coins. The ICA takes a more holistic approach – cash comprises both banknotes and coins, and both are essential parts of the currency system. Along with the MDC, there are other organisations and events that focus on one part or aspect of the cash cycle – be this banknotes or coins, technology, design, standards, digitisation, equipment, transport etc., or which are regional.

All of these play an important role, but the ICA, by contrast, is the only organisation that encompasses all parts of the cash cycle and all stakeholders on a global level. And the ICA is the only organisation that, through its Cash Matters advocacy campaign, seeks to reach out to the wider public, rather than its own constituency of members.

 

Q: From which part of the industry are the members now coming? Are there any mints or coin related companies among them? How many?

A: The ICA is a young organisation and was only created two years ago, in April 2016. It has been a very exciting period for the cash industry and the ICA has experienced strong growth in membership in a short space of time. It now has 23 active members and 7 associate members and has achieved one of its primary goals – to become representative of the whole currency industry. Our members are global and come from all parts of the cash cycle – from manufacturers of inks and security features, to substrates to manufacturers of hardware for notes and coins.

The coin side of the industry is represented so far by Schuler, but several mints have expressed interest so we are hoping for some of those to join too. And among the associate members (ie. associations), there are several that deal with coins as well as banknotes, mainly on the CIT side of the industry.

A full list of members can be viewed on the website www.currencyassociation.org/Search-Member-Directory.aspx

 

Q: I understand that you deem it to be very useful for a mint to participate in the ICA. What would be the advantages?

A: For the ICA, cash is cash. No distinction between fighting for banknotes or for coins. If you listen to Visa or Mastercard, openly declaring a war on cash, we have no time for skirmishes, for talking about coins or banknotes. We have a battle on our hands, and all players in the cash cycle must stand together.

Currency systems rely on coins just as on banknotes. And whilst the coin and banknote producers have seen each other as competitors for a long time, in the bigger scheme of things their interests are now the same since a move away from cash will be damaging to both, not to mention to society as a whole.

We need the mints on our side in the fight pro cash.

 

Q: What does it cost?

A: Our membership levels are based on varying levels. Those organisations with an annual turnover over €10m will pay more than those with an annual turnover of under €10m. Annual fees for associate members are €1,000.

 

Q: There used to be a problem for state mints to join international associations. Is there any possibility – such as ‘special member’ – that could solve this problem?

A: We welcome all mints, private and state-owned. It’s a question of whether such mints are allowed by their governments to be part of a pro-cash movement. Incidentally, two of the current members – Goznak and Note Printing Australia (NPA) – are both government-owned banknote printers (and, in the case of Goznak, minting as well). NPA’s CEO Malcolm McDowell is even a member of the ICA Board. So, state ownership does not preclude membership as far as the ICA is concerned.

The ICA has two membership categories and is open to legally-incorporated companies and businesses that are suppliers of currency, or suppliers of products, technologies and equipment used in the design, production, handling and circulation of currency. Trade or industry associations or other organisations and institutions such as universities, foundations and NGOs can be co-opted as associate members.

It is worth noting that central banks and issuing authorities cannot become members, because by law/statute they have to be impartial as regards payments, whereas the ICA’s mission is explicit in favour of cash. By definition, therefore, issuers cannot be members. Whether the same applies or not to mints depends on the country.

 

Q: You developed the advocacy campaign Cash Matters an ICA movement. Why is this campaign important for mints and the coin related industry?

A: Coins are coming under attack, particularly in the eurozone, but elsewhere in the world too. The ‘Cash Matters’ campaign, which was launched in May 2017, works to give all those a voice who see cash as an integral and inclusive part of the payment landscape, now and in the future.

The goal of Cash Matters is twofold – to offer authoritative and accessible facts, figures, and news for consumers, journalists and industry experts alike, and to give pro-cash movements and petitions a platform. Mints and the coin industry are part of that cash ‘umbrella’. Cash Matters especially has built close ties with many mints and is hugely interested in mints joining the ICA.

 

Q: We all have seen the website and the spot on Youtube (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ko0HT_pw4Zg). Which other channels do you use to spread your message?

A: Cash Matters uses a number of channels beside its website, including social media (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram). Through Cash Matters, the ICA has also commissioned two white papers. The first one critically assessed claims that limiting cash payments will limit criminal and terrorist financing – ‘Keeping Cash’. The movement used the paper as a door opener in Brussels, lobbying successfully at the European Commission on shelving potential cash payment limitations in Europe.

We are also in the process of producing a second white paper – ‘Cash as a Public Good’ – which will highlight the role of cash as a complementary tool in the payments landscape, and outline recommendations for policy makers and researchers on key issues and proposals for maintaining cash infrastructures and access.

 

Q: Are conferences a channel for you as well?

A: The ICA is present at a significant number of global conferences with members introducing the ICA, or through panels it organised such as ‘The Future of Payments Landscape’ discussion held at the 2017 Currency Conference in Kuala Lumpur 2017. The ICA will also be conducting a global conference of its own in order to demonstrate innovation, maximise shared learning and provide a cost-effective solution for the currency industry and its customers. The ICA’s first such conference will be held in autumn 2020.

 

In May 2018 Wolfram Seidemann was elected new chairman of the ICA. He has been CEO of G+D Currency Technology since September 2016.

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