In this episode of The Cash News, we have an exclusive recording of a presentation by Ashley Yayock, senior director of global treasury operations at Walmart, from the Banknote & Currency Conference, hosted by Currency Research. Her team manages all the cash and checking processing operations at Walmart, partnering with banks, cash-in-transit companies, and internal operations and asset protection teams to drive efficiencies and find cost savings. Yayock shares her unique perspective on overseeing the cash flow of Walmart locations nationwide while facing unexpected disruptions to the cash supply chain since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As the coronavirus first became a public health crisis in early March to mid-April 2020, Yayock and her team were focused on tax refund season, ensuring they had enough funds and the right denominations to cash checks. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic led to huge levels of panic buying, particularly at big-box retailers like Walmart, along with a shift to BOPIS (buy online, pick up in-store) and curbside pickup that drove up non-cash payments. To support the sudden change in consumer demand, Walmart ordered more smaller denominations to make change for customers stocking up on supplies, instead of larger denominations to cash tax refund checks.
EBT was another payment that shifted Walmart’s cash transactions. “When we saw unemployment skyrocket and government benefits increase, there was a big shift to EBT,” said Yayock. “If those consumers that use that benefit go back to work, do they go back to a payroll check that they then come [to Walmart] to cash like they used to, or have they permanently converted to an electronic form of payment?”
One of the biggest challenges in the currency industry today is the coin circulation challenge, which has often been mislabeled as a coin shortage. The drop in-person payments and cash usage naturally led to a decrease in the number of coins in circulation, leading the Federal Reserve to allocate more coin into circulation, which indicated that this was an unusual situation that required some creative solutions. Many banks and retailers have started offering incentives to their clients to encourage them to bring in their coins from home to get more coin back in circulation.
As a major provider of check-cashing services, Walmart has also had to pivot in response to several economic stimulus payments and the ongoing child tax credit payments. How Americans received these payments varied, either coming in as a direct deposit to their bank account or a check in the mail. The first economic stimulus was unfamiliar territory to Yayock’s team, which faced many logistical challenges in a short timeline. For example, they needed to transport huge levels of cash around the country to ensure store locations had enough cash so consumers could cash their stimulus checks as soon as they received them.
Cash automation has played a role in Walmart’s treasury operations for many years, usually with medium-sized cash recyclers in-store locations. Yayock shared that having access to the data and analytics of their cash operations was essential to data-driven decision making, which allowed them to move quickly when adapting to events like an economic stimulus or a coin circulation issue on short notice.
Yayock also noted that there is still a significant portion of consumers who want to use cash, not because it’s their only option but because they prefer it, which is why cash operations remain an essential part of the payments ecosystem even as the demand for digital payments increases.
Currency Research has a ton of exciting events about cash and currency in the coming months:
- The EMEA Cash Cycle Seminar: Amsterdam, November 1–3, 2021
- The Americas Cash Cycle Seminar: San Diego, December 6–9, 2021
- The Banknote & Currency Conference: Washington, DC, February 21–24, 2022
- The Digital Currency Conference: Washington, DC, February 25, 2022