How Prosegur Cash is helping tackle financial exclusion in ‘Empty Spain’
Prosegur Cash has launched two initiatives in recent months to help tackle the financial exclusion facing more than 4,000 Spanish towns. The projects are being carried out in conjunction with strategic partners such as the Provincial Council of Valladolid and the Red Castellano Manchega de Desarrollo Rural (RECAMDER).
The figures speak volumes. As Alfredo Garrido García, New Products Manager at Prosegur Cash Iberia, explains: "In recent years, Spain has been undergoing a process of gradual financial exclusion due to the closure of more than 28,000 bank branches". Although this has been felt throughout the country, most of these closures have taken place in rural areas in what has become known as ‘Empty Spain’, sparsely populated areas like the Celtiberian Mountains, the Cantabrian Cordillera, the Pyrenees or along the border with Portugal: "We are talking about more than 4,000 localities that do not have any bank branches right now, and in many cases that no longer even have access to a traditional ATM within a radius of five kilometers".
Recent studies suggest that between 1.2 and 1.6 million Spaniards live in these growing areas of financial exclusion. “Regardless of the emphasis on the change in habits wrought by the pandemic, the fact is that 82% of Spaniards today are unhappy about not being able to pay with cash,” says Garrido, adding: “Three out of five people use this method on a daily basis, and for 40% of them, continuing to do so is now a problem."
We are talking about more than 4,000 localities that do not have any bank branches right now, and in many cases that no longer even have access to a traditional ATM within a radius of five kilometers.
A fleet of mobile ATMs
To counter this drift, Prosegur Cash launched a high-impact program in 2020 that saw the installation of multi-service ATMs in towns with no access to cash (starting with municipalities in the western province of Salamanca such as Galinduste, Topas, San Esteban de la Sierra or Hinojosa de Duero), as well as installing ATMs aboard provincial library bus services. This latter initiative was focused on the Sierra de Francia, a rural area between the regions of Castilla y León and Extremadura, where a combination of depopulation and geographic dispersion have seriously reduced many people’s financial options.
On March 6, events took a major leap forward with the introduction of the Mobile ATM service, the result of an agreement between the Provincial Council of Valladolid and Prosegur Cash. As Garrido explains: "This is about providing cash to 175 municipalities and some 34,000 people in Valladolid who had been left without financial services." Under the agreement reached with the provincial authority, Prosegur Cash covers their cash needs with a specialized vehicle equipped with cutting-edge technology and an ATM that travels the roads of the central province between Monday and Friday.
This is about providing cash to 175 municipalities and some 34,000 people in Valladolid who had been left without financial services.
Garrido explains that the vehicles "cover 20 routes and make a monthly visit to the 88 municipalities with less than 125 inhabitants and two to those with more than that number." The regular visit of the Mobile ATM allows local people "to collect cash using a debit, credit or prepaid card issued by any entity", as well as via a smartphone using near-field communication (NFR) technology. While savings account transactions cannot be made, users can "consult their balance and recent movements, recharge prepaid cards or change their PIN", says Garrido. The maximum commission for each of these operations "is €1.35, which is charged to the card issuer," in compliance with the Bank of Spain’s transparency guidelines.
Prosegur Cash won the contract in August 2023, "after the provincial council of Valladolid’s call for tenders," explains Garrido. In addition to the company’s experience in the sector, the fact that it was proposing a "neutral" solution—not linked to any specific financial institution—was a key factor. At the presentation of the initiative, held on February 28, Conrado Íscar, President of Valladolid Provincial Council, highlighted what he called "a pioneering program in Spain."
A virtuous circle
In parallel, Prosegur Cash has recently launched a similar collaborative project in Castilla-La Mancha to provide rural communities in the central-southern region with access to cash. This involves the installation of ATMs in municipalities in the community, led by the Red Castellano Manchega de Desarrollo Rural (RECAMDER). Policarpo Ledesma, commercial director of Prosegur Cash Iberia, points out that the first of these ATMs was installed in June 2022 in Buendía, a small town in Cuenca province that is an economic hub, "as the water from its reservoir is used to supply the Tajo-Segura water transfer, which provides irrigation to several Spanish provinces." The choice of Buendía is symbolic, he explains: "It is a question of highlighting the contribution to the common development of these sparsely populated municipalities and, in general, of empty Spain."
Ledesma points out that the goal of installing ATMs is to “help create a virtuous circle through their effect on the local economy, helping to keep traders in business." In the final analysis, he concludes, it is a question of "offering a service, access to cash, which Spaniards value, but which in many cases they are beginning to be deprived of due to changing circumstances."