Cash is still the biggest threat for digital payments firms: PayPal CTO


Last August, a PayPal study found cash was still king in Asia, with China being an outlier where majority of the respondents said they preferred using digital payments. The European Central Bank said in November that a majority of people in the Euro area used cash when paying for goods and services in 2016 — especially for small-value items below 15 euros ($17.62).

Still, in recent years, new forms of online payments have emerged, including mobile wallets and cryptocurrencies.

But the move away from cash will take time and it would be the digital natives — people born after 1980 — who would lead the change, according to Shivananda.

“Their primary mode of interaction with everything in the world is digital,” he said.

Even then, it would not be easy to dislodge cash from society and move solely to digital payments, according to David Ng, a principal at investment firm B Capital Group’s Singapore office.

“Cash is going to be around for a bit, especially in many emerging markets,” Ng told CNBC. He explained that in many countries, it’s not easy to obtain credit or debit cards, or use digital payment platforms.

But a systematic push from governments and the availability of good digital payment platforms, like WeChat Pay and M-Pesa, might drive more people toward cashless transactions, he said. Even then, “consumers will still choose a hybrid of both,” he added.

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