While the rapid growth in electronic payments has emboldened those prophesising the imminence of a “cashless world”, the reality is that cash is still a much relied upon form of payment that won’t disappear anytime soon. That leaves room for the innovation and technology community to explore more efficient business solutions for managing cash, as well as electronic payment technologies.
TFS Global, a member of HKSTP’s Incu-Tech programme, has introduced a smart cash management solution using smart safes to manage cash and resolve a long-standing headache for small and medium-sized retailers.
The company’s president Dr. Ken Lui Pui Hing has been extensively involved in the research and development of ATM machines for banks. He set up TFS Global in 2015 and became a HKSTP incubatee in 2017. He says retail stores have been devoting considerable manpower and time to managing cash, and there is a lack of real-time monitoring of some parts of the process, making it inherently risky. Convenience stores, for example, require staff to spend at least half an hour counting cash before handing it over at the end of their shifts, and wait for district managers to verify the accounts. Cash then has to be dispatched to be deposited into banks by security service providers or in some cases by bosses queuing up at bank counters.
Cash deposits anytime, with instant records
TFS Global offers a smart cash management solution that automates the entire process with networking and telecommunications technology. Its clients will set up a TFS cash deposit machine (CDM) in stores so that store employees can deposit cash into the machine, either at a scheduled time or anytime during the day. Shopkeepers just need to input their personal passcode and then feed the cash into the deposit slot. The machine will automatically count and verify the deposited sum and display the total on the screen. The shopkeepers then press the confirm button and the machine will put the money into the safety deposit compartment within the machine, and then print a receipt. The information will be instantly uploaded to a cloud-based Cash Management System (CMS) via a mobile phone network to update the company’s account in real time.
Dr Lui says that TFS’s CDM is a proprietary product with a number of patent applications pending. It boasts higher performance at lower costs than similar devices from Europe and America. For example, the machine can process 800 to 1,200 banknotes every minute, much faster than the counting speed of 50 to 600 banknotes per minute of the competitors’ models. The accuracy of counting and verifying banknotes is comparable to the ATMs used by banks. Its solution has been certified by the central banks of Europe and has processed more than 35 million banknotes to the value of US$2 billion for customers in the past two years, which says a lot about the reliability of the solution.
Multiple features to save cost and enhance efficiency
The best part about the solution is that it helps a shop keep track of its operations while saving manpower on account reconciliation. Shopkeepers can deposit their cash intake at a specific time without having to wait for district managers to verify the accounts, and district managers won’t have to travel around dozens of outlets just to check cash counting. Instead, the managers can channel their efforts into improving business results. The cash collected in the machine would of course need to be dispatched to banks, but the stores won’t need security dispatchers every day, reducing transportation costs and again improving operational efficiency.
Dr Lui emphasises that depositing cash into the CSM is a critical step as it means the cash is already recorded in the company’s account, and the deposited sum is confirmed and cannot be changed. That means even if someone tries to steal from the cash intake, the CDM record will accurately reflect any losses and can help police investigations or insurance claims.
HKSTP helps expand business networks
In the two years since TFS Global joined the Science Park community (as of end-2018) for R&D and market development, Dr Lui says he has received strong support throughout the ecosystem. First, he was able to link up with potential investment organisations and investors for fund-raising. Further, the company’s profile has been elevated through various marketing and promotion activities. At Science Park workshops, he learned about government support measures and application procedures and received professional advice on patent application while getting to know other technology companies and build business contacts.
In 2015, TFS Global installed its CDMs for a convenience store chain. Since then, it has built a clientele of convenience stores, drug stores, birds’ nest retail stores, sport shoes specialists, American fast food chains, hotels, business outlets in the travel industry and charities, both in Hong Kong and Macau.
Reaching into the global marketplace
Citing the 2017 Annual Report of the Hong Kong Monetary Authority, Dr Lui points out that banknotes and coins in circulation in Hong Kong as of end-2017 totalled HK$468.2 billion, and that the amount in circulation is increasing annually at 11.5%. Cash circulation in many countries around the world is also increasing, not shrinking. On the other hand, the cost for managing cash is one of biggest issues for businesses. A 2013 survey showed the cost was as high as US$300 billion a year globally. All of which, he believes, is solid evidence of the viability of a highly efficient cash management solution in the global marketplace for TFS Global to capitalise on, starting with Hong Kong.