Riksbank predicts Sweden will be 'cashless' within five years

A view of an entrance of Sweden's central bank in Stockholm, Sweden, August 12, 2016. Picture taken August 12, 2016. REUTERS/Violette Goarant

LONDON (Reuters) - Sweden is likely to become cashless within the next five years, the deputy governor of the country’s central bank, Cecilia Skingsley, predicted on Tuesday.

The use of notes and coins has been declining in Sweden for years and instant mobile phone payments and other new technologies means it is has now dwindled to almost insignificant levels.

“Sweden will probably become cashless in 3-5 years,” Riksbank deputy Skingsley said at a London banking conference.

Physical cash would not be banned, but so few people and firms were likely to need to use it beyond that timeframe that it would become practically useless.

Central banks themselves will also need to evolve to adapt to what will be a much changed landscape. They many introduce their own digital currencies -- something the Riksbank is looking into -- and continue doing what they have been doing for best part of the last 200-300 years.

Alternatively they may develop into something that regulates and controls “privately created” money by firms looking to dominate global payment markets.

“If we don’t do anything we are looking at a future where money will be spontaneously privatized,” Skingsley said.

“The upside of becoming the Google of money creation or payments is very attractive and is something all of us (in the central bank/regulatory sphere) think we have to be very firm on the boundaries of.”

Reporting by Marc Jones; Editing by Alexander Smith