In the next few months, we'll be interviewing members of the Anti-Counterfeit & Currency 2018 Advisory Board to hear their expert-thoughts on the currency and secure document industries. Our first interview is with David Hasler, Founder & President of Breakthrough Solutions Consulting and previously Senior Director, Global Treasurer at Wal-Mart. We hear about which companies to watch out for in the cash processing industry, how cash handling improves customer experience, and what current projects David is working on.
Currently, I run an international consulting business focused on Finance and Strategy. My client base consists of two primary groups. First, start-ups and growing small businesses that need help telling their economic story or need some part-time CFO support. The other part of my business is consulting on the cash automation in the retail space with a particular emphasis on the activities around the traditional cash office. The cash office expertise stems from a project I lead while working at Walmart to automate their cash handling and improve working capital.
The current process of handling, counting and securing cash in the retail environment is getting turned on its head. The primary players (retailers, banks, and carriers) will remain the same but the way they interact with each other is rapidly changing…or needs to change. The number of firms providing offerings in the space has grown tremendously.
The managed services or middleware providers are the first that come to mind. These are firms that bring the entire ecosystem together and help extract value across all the related cash handling activities. They bring together the retailer, the bank and the carrier through an integrated solution supported by analytics. The implementations and running these solutions can be very complex to manage. Running those projects and systems may not rise to the level of internal investment by a retailer. That’s where these firms come into the picture. G4S is the clear leader here and known for the open-loop model (where the retailer maintains all their current relationships with banks and carriers) that they implemented with Walmart. I should also mention there are closed loop models (one where the provider handles all those relationships for you) that exist like Fifth Third’s partnership with Glory. I tend to be partial to the open-loop model because it feels more device, carrier and bank agnostic. Both models are really intended to extract the maximum value on the working capital side in addition to helping you manage a more efficient process.
On the technology/equipment side, there’s Revolution, Tidel, and Glory who sit at the top of that food chain in the US. All three continue to innovate and look for creative ways to handle cash and coin and each one has a fair number of devices on the market. Most notably is Revolution’s implementation in all the Walmart US locations. While there are others who also play in this space…these are the clear leaders who have the most exposure to the needs of retailers.
From a software standpoint, there are players like Balance Innovations and SureTraxx who are clearly thinking of ways to solve problems where a box doesn’t make sense. Both of these groups have been playing in this space for quite a while in one way or another.
I like retail because of the close proximity to the customer. Every action you take can have an almost immediate impact. In addition, there are lots of other areas where you can make an impact that the customer doesn’t see that have a direct impact on their shopping experience. For example, a more efficient cash handling process in a retail location not only frees up cash office labor but also frees up management time as well. That’s important because it allows for a better run store, more customer interactions which creates loyal customers in the end.
At the moment I am trying to be a champion of this cash office automation idea. Bricks and mortar retail need this in order to stay competitive with online retailing. Cash is here to stay I’m afraid and it creates a natural disadvantage for bricks and mortar locations. We have to drive down the costs in this area which in turn also benefits the customer experience as I mentioned earlier. I work with several vendors in this space to help tell that story. I’ve also started reaching out to retailers to see if I can help them solve this puzzle for their organizations.
There is still a lot of white space in the U.S. for now. But the next step is clearly international with Canada being the next logical step. There are versions of this going on in the UK and other countries. China is a place where I am surprised more activity isn’t going on. A model needs to be developed there that’s different from the US version…but they need a solution nonetheless.
The GS1 standard is also something to prepare for. Tracking of cash through our country’s entire ecosystem is important and a hard lesson learned from weather events like Hurricane Sandy. No one seemed to have a good handle on where all the cash really was. The good news is that the work a retailer does in the space to automate cash handling and improve working capital dovetails nicely into this cash tracking initiative.
The more you learn about this space the better. No one conference will give you the perspective you need to understand the whole ecosystem. Having a dialogue with peers and vendors in the space from varying vantage points is always time well spent. For example, I learned things that helped my cash office automation project while simply focusing on or having a dialogue with players in the anti-counterfeit space.
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