Banking standards watchdog has warned that British banks are running at a lower cash-to-assets ratio than international banks and should “immediately increase their cash withdrawals” to ensure the UK remains competitive with its international peers.
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a damning report that highlights how the UK has not achieved its goal of having a “competitive banking environment” that attracts and attracts high-quality international clients.
A report from the watchdog also said there are concerns that UK commercial banks are failing to implement cash-based transactions.
“UK commercial banks have the resources to deploy cash-less and cash-in-hand operations in their commercial banks to facilitate high volume cash transactions, but are failing in achieving that goal,” the report said.
“[This] has the potential to adversely impact the competitive balance of the UK’s banking system and the global economy.”
The FSA also found that cash transactions in the UK are too slow compared to those in other major economies, with a cash flow of less than 3 per cent per year.
While it has set up a taskforce to tackle this, it is still not clear how much progress has been made to achieve this goal, which is currently at around 2.5 per cent.
In its report, the FSA said there was a significant shortfall in the level of cash-transaction volumes in UK banks compared to international banks.
According to the FSA, only 1.9 per cent of UK bank cash transactions were cash-only transactions, which means that there was not enough cash to be made available for cash transactions.
This is despite the fact that the UK government has pledged to increase cash withdrawals by 25 per cent by 2020.
As a result, UK commercial bank cash flow was only 3 per Cent in 2015, which was far below the international average of 4.3 per cent, the watchdog found.
It said that cash flows in other countries are far higher and the UK is “unable to match” its international competitors.
With only 1 per cent cash-flow, the UK commercial banking sector is “not yet competitive with our international competitors,” the watchdog said.
However, the report pointed out that the bank is “well-placed to respond to the challenges of this competitive environment.”
The regulator also noted that it was “difficult to draw conclusions” about the financial resilience of UK commercial lenders, despite having “high confidence” in the performance of commercial banks.
The FSA said that commercial banks should have “more flexibility” in their cash-handling procedures to allow cash-holders to “take advantage of opportunities to use their cash to achieve a higher rate of cash flow.”
In addition, the regulator said that the lack of cash balances is causing “serious concerns” for UK commercial bankers and that the “risk of an increase in risk of default is increasing”.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the Financial Conduct Board said that “it is vital that banks have access to sufficient cash to meet their needs and are able to operate effectively”.
“The Government has made clear that it wants to see banks have sufficient cash and that they can effectively meet their customers’ needs, as this would ensure they are able meet the increased demand from international customers,” the spokesperson said.
“This is a critical point to address given that there are over 1.3 million UK bank customers, with over half of them using a commercial bank.”
The Financial Services Authority will continue to work closely with the Government to address the challenges faced by the UK banking sector.