ATMs tipped to go the way of phone boxes as millennials pay by mobile

Goodbye cash, hello ‘cloud cash’, predicts futurologist working with AIB

ATMs may become a thing of the past, says Martin Raymond, Irish founder of The Future Laboratory.

Abandoned ATMs are set to be the next phone boxes, tolerance for shop queues will falter, and a tap on the back of the wrist will become the new "bill, please", according to an Irish futurologist working with AIB.

Martin Raymond, founder of The Future Laboratory, a consultancy based in London, said cash machines were "increasingly looking like the phone boxes of our generation", as millennials abandon debit cards for a "mobile-first, swipe, tap or hand gesture culture" of payment.

“The fact that we have to walk to an ATM already means we have to make a decision before we can use it,” Mr Raymond said.

Millennials and the even younger Generation Z are already normalising the use of mobile and wearable payment apps such as Apple Pay and Google Pay in their bid to save time and gain apparent control over their money and their lifestyles.


“Cloud cash” will eventually become “the standard thing”, Mr Raymond said, while also noting that there will be a more mainstream take-up of apps that use artificial intelligence to analyse users’ money habits. These apps may renegotiate bills or recommend the cancellation of unused subscriptions.

Use of new technologies is often bound up with millennials’ desire to make visible lifestyle choices that their peers consider admirable.

“This generation want things to happen at speed, but they also want to be seen to order the right kind of thing – that gluten-free pasta, that soy latte, the latest orange biodynamic wine.”

This instinct is referred to by The Future Laboratory as “tap-and-glow”.

"Walkout shopping" grocery stores, such as the checkout-free Amazon Go in Seattle, will soon arrive here, he added, and the attitude that "it is almost your privilege to queue" in shops should disappear as a result.

These trends have coincided with a shift from a credit to a debit culture among younger groups. Mr Raymond gave the example of using a pre-pay mobile app in a London pub to set up a contactless, cashless version of the traditional bar tab.

‘Tactile novelty’

Taking cash on a night out may be seen as a “tactile” novelty by millennials, he noted, while diners may increasingly alert service staff that they are ready to pay by “tapping the back of our wrist or waving our mobile in the air”.

The former is not a universally understood signal quite yet.

“I was making a fool of myself in a hotel last night doing that, and the guy said, ‘It’s 8.20pm’,” Mr Raymond said. “Then I waved my phone and he knew what I meant.”

Mobile wallet apps have been available in the Irish market for less than two years, with AIB and KBC introducing Google Pay (then known as Android Pay) in December 2016.

Only 8 per cent of Irish consumers pay with their mobile, according to a 2018 Visa study, and the majority of them are millennials, the group usually defined as people born between 1980 and 1995. Take-up is expected to accelerate, however.

The Future Laboratory, which works with companies such as Google, Spotify, LVMH, Nike, Adidas, Unilever and Diageo as well as AIB, forecasts that the number using mobile contactless payments worldwide will rise to more than 760 million by 2020.

By showing others how things are done, the 2.5 per cent to 13.5 per cent of the population who can be classed as “innovators” or early adopters give “social permission” to the rest of us to echo their behaviour, Mr Raymond said.

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery

Laura Slattery is an Irish Times journalist writing about media, advertising and other business topics