The Currency Department’s Annual Report for 2017


  • The value of cash in circulation at the end of 2017 was NIS 82 billion.
  • In the past two years, there has been a slowing in the rate of growth of cash in circulation: the growth rate at the end of 2017 was 8 percent—lower than the average over the past decade (11 percent).  Over the past 12 months (July 2017–June 2018) growth was 4 percent, and over the past 6 months (January–June, 2018) it was only 1 percent. The Currency Department is closely monitoring the trend and cash usage patterns, in order to manage the cash area at the Bank of Israel and in the economy in general.
  • A trend of decline can be seen in cash services provided through tellers, while in contrast there is a trend of growth in cash services provided through automated devices. This is against the background of the increased efficiency in the banking system, reflected both in a decrease in the number of branches and in an increase in the number of automated teller machines (ATM), as well as in a decrease in the number and value of deposits and withdrawals via tellers and an increase in the number and value of deposits and withdrawals through ATMs.
  • In 2017, with the entry into circulation of the NIS 20 banknote from the new currency series, the Currency Department began a program to increase the distribution of those notes into circulation, through branches of banking corporations and ATMs.  This process was intended to provide a response to the public’s needs and to improve the quality of the banknotes in circulation. Due to this, the share of NIS 20 banknotes in circulation increased by 13 percent.

In 2017, the Currency Department completed the launch of Series C of the New Shekel—the “Poets Series”—with the entry into circulation of the NIS 20 and NIS 100 denominations. By June 30, 2018, 78 percent of the old banknotes had been replaced, in accordance with the following distribution:

NIS 20

NIS 50

NIS 100

NIS 200

Total

51 percent

92 percent

62 percent

88 percent

78 percent

 



The new series was designed by Ms. Osnat Eshel, and it was approved by the Committee for the Planning of Banknotes, Coins, and Commemorative Coins, headed by Retired Justice Yaakov Turkel, as well as by the Governor of the Bank of Israel, the Bank of Israel’s Supervisory Council, and the Government of Israel. Series B was replaced by Series C in order to upgrade the security features and to reduce the risk of counterfeiting. The security features incorporated in the new banknotes are among the most advanced in the field, and are notable for being very easy for the public to identify, at the same time as being very difficult to counterfeit. In addition, the new banknotes include special means of identification for the benefit of the blind and the vision impaired.

In parallel with replacing Series B, the Currency Department continues to upgrade the mechanical infrastructures and the information systems in order to improve and increase the efficiency of the currency system. Among other things, the Department is in advanced stages of developing a system for analysis, monitoring, and control based on the serial numbers of Series C banknotes. In addition, the Department is systematically improving the quality of banknotes in circulation by replacing unfit banknotes with new ones. To carry out its work, the Department collects information from a range of sources, and among other things it conducts periodic surveys of cash usage patterns in order to make professional decisions. To illustrate, the surveys indicated that there is a need to improve the availability of the NIS 20 denomination banknotes, which are used mainly for giving change and carrying out small value transactions, and the Currency Department worked in the past year to expand their distribution both through ATMs and at bank branches.

During 2017, Bank of Israel Rules (rules for orderly conduct of the cash system) went into effect. These rules regulate various operational aspects of the currency system, including the operation of the banking corporations’ cash centers, and they were formulated mainly to maintain the quality of banknotes in circulation and to deal efficiently with counterfeit currency.

In the past year, the Currency Department increased the sophistication of the range of tools and methods for dealing with counterfeit currency. The Department provides the Israel Police—the entity responsible for enforcing the law against counterfeiting—with all the assistance required to enhance enforcement and improve deterrence. In addition to the criminal sphere, the Bank of Israel also works in the civilian sphere—it recently submitted a civil lawsuit, the first of its kind, against defendants who were convicted of counterfeiting banknotes, through the Civil Enforcement Unit at the State Attorney office and the Southern District (Civil) Prosecutor’s office.

There is great importance to the public’s awareness of the banknotes’ security features, as counterfeiters in Israel and abroad try to take advantage of the public’s lack of familiarity with the banknotes’ features in order to distribute photocopies of banknotes or low quality counterfeits. The Currency Department works to promote the public’s awareness of the new banknotes and to encourage the use of security features incorporated into them, by conducting a public awareness campaign on the Internet and via mobile (“Easy to check, easy to authenticate”), providing training materials and sessions, publishing information on a dedicated website—www.newbanknotes.org.il—and responding to enquiries at the call center—1-800-300-018. The public is urged to take care to check the security features when receiving banknotes in order to avoid financial loss.