The Industry Finally Gets Together Again

Conference Co Directors Shaun Ferrari and Michael Lambert.

Conference Co Directors Shaun Ferrari and Michael Lambert.

The Banknote & Currency Conference was the first major industry event to take place in person since the start of the pandemic. The four day event, followed by the one-day inaugural Digital Currency Conference, welcomed more than 450 delegates from 180 organisations and 53 countries. They included 40 central banks, state printworks and government authorities.

Although those numbers were lower than in previous years, mainly due to representatives from Asia, Africa and Latin America being unable to travel, they were still sufficient to generate lively discussion in the conference room, exhibition hall and social events.

The event started off with a series of workshops on Universal Access to Payments (UA2P), the cash cycle from IACA and, from Currency News™, ‘Circulating Coins: Intrinsic, Essential, Sustainable). A polymers users summit and a session for state printworks also took place.

The conference itself opened with a keynote address from Mark Gould, Chief Payments Officer at the Federal Reserve, and ended with one from Johannes Beermann of the Bundesbank.

In the intervening three days, the panel discussions covered developments in issuance and production, currency and coin developments in the cash cycle, Cash Tech, perception studies, risk and compliance, global efforts on counterfeit deterrence, reducing the ecological footprint of notes and coins, access to cash and payments, financial inclusion and the roles of cash and CBDCs.

These panels were interspersed with technology presentations from sponsors on topics ranging from design and durability to AI in sensors, printable feature and what to do with banknote waste. A number of new features and technologies were also launched during the conference.

The presentation of the IACA Excellence in Currency Awards also took place (see page 13).

The key topics and technologies will be covered in this and subsequent issues of Currency News.

According to Michael Lambert, formerly of the Federal Reserve and Co-Chair of the event, the run up to the conference did bring challenges and concerns.

First was that it was a hybrid event, a combination of two very different conferences. The Currency Conference is usually focused on policy and management issues relating to procuring and running the cash cycle, while the Banknote Conference is focused on the technology and processes behind making and circulating cash.

The character of each of these reflects their very different emphasis. The first concern, therefore, was whether the combination would work, he said. Would technical presentations such as the Artificial Intelligence session from Authentix, the Bank of Spain and AWS WWPS work for all? Attendance would suggest they did.

The second challenge was knowing who would attend. A large number of delegates had pre-registered back in 2020/21 and the organisers could not be sure how many would actually attend. In the event, most that could did.

Related to the second challenge was organising the programme into a coherent logical flow faced with speaker availability changing late in the day as access to visas and COVID intervened and disrupted. Flexibility was the key. Ensuring policy and technical sessions, supported by appropriate sponsor related presentations, was, largely, achieved, Michael, said, although the audience is the ultimate judge of that.

The new Digital Currency Conference on Friday is another innovation. There was some debate about whether it was appropriate to hold it adjacent to the Banknote & Currency Conference, but it is logistically efficient for those wanting to attend both, and digital currencies are not going away and need to be understood.

One can always hope for more attendees, more central banks and more SPWs, but the organisers took the courageous decision to press on with this conference. One that has paid off, as it is more than time now to get back face to face and to meet again.

The next Currency Conference will take place in Mexico City in May 2023, and the next Banknote Conference in Fort Worth, TX in May 2024.