Ralf Wintergerst
"Cash has been on the rise during the pandemic – as it always is in times of crisis or uncertainty," says Ralf Wintergerst. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: For a business that came into being in 1852 printing bank notes, Germany’s Giesecke+Devrient seems to have handled all of the ongoing digital-led payment disruptions quite well. Going by the fact that the Munich-based company recorded 2.31 billion euros as revenues in 2020.

But with more consumers and business switching to online payments, how long can Giesecke+Devrient keep doing things its way? With more countries announcing their plans to launch digital currencies, it becomes less of a necessity to keep printing out bank notes. Or is it?

Ralf Wintergerst, CEO, gives his thoughts on what the nearly 170-year old company plans to do with cash.

The world is turning digital on payments, and even central banks are talking digital. Where does the shift from cash leave your company?

Giesecke+Devrient (G+D) is active in a multitude of fields. One of it is payment in all its variety, covering the whole payment ecosystem from physical to electronic and digital payment products and services.

We see ourselves well positioned in both worlds – the analogue and the digital one. What end-users want is freedom of choice. Digital currencies give them that choice and combine two things - access to a Central Bank issued currency and participating in digital payments.

Apart from that, we secure the digital connectivity of people and things on the internet and offer solutions for the protection and management of identities, as well as secure digital infrastructures.

Apart from the switch to digital, the pandemic is also expected to have its say on cash-based transactions. Are you factoring in major changes in the way cash is used?

Quite the contrary. Cash has been on the rise during the pandemic – as it always is in times of crisis or uncertainty. Although digitalization of the payment landscape is advancing quickly, we are convinced cash keeps playing a vital role in the variety of payment methods.

It’s simple, it’s easily accessible to everyone and universally accepted.

In the business of cash, where does your company stand? Do you provide the equipment and systems for the printing of cash?

We provide comprehensive solutions for secure end-to-end cash management. This means, G+D designs and produces banknotes, security substrates, and highly secure counterfeit protection solutions. Our portfolio also includes banknote processing systems in different performance categories and complete solutions for cash centers and currency circulation.

Additionally G+D is very active in the field of central bank digital currencies.

During the two Covid years, did you see a sharp drop in demand for your bank note printing services?

There have been Covid effects, but less in the way that you suggested. We have seen a strong growth in areas such as public currencies, of course. On top of that, there’s still a very high demand for electronic payment products, including smart cards.

In the public sector domain, the rising demand for highly secure and mobile government communication has been considerable, too. However, our industry still has to cope with an insufficient semiconductor supply combined with logistics issues, resulting in higher costs.

On top of that, the ease of global travel is not back to pre-Covid levels yet – meaning that complex projects and sometimes even machine setups may be subject to delays.

How does the company plan to deal with the whole question of digital-led disruptions?

We don´t see digitalization as a threat to our business, but as a tremendous opportunity of new business development and growth. This can be quite disruptive.

Let me tackle an example of a completely different business. We invented the physical SIM some 30 years ago – this technology still exists but is being replaced by embedded SIM technology (eSIM), freeing up precious space in smartphones.

We were the forerunners in the SIM technology and we repeated this with the eSIM technology a few years back. Now we are having leading market positions in this new and fully digital space, too.