- New £10 note comes into circulation on Thursday.
- The note is the most advanced ever seen in the UK with myriad new features.
- Counterfeiting the note should be virtually impossible thanks to nine security measures.
- Notes are made from an advanced polymer at a Bank of England facility in Essex.
- Business Insider spoke to Chief Cashier Victoria Cleland ahead of the note’s launch.
LONDON — You may not have heard of Victoria Cleland before, but you’ve almost certainly seen her name hundreds of times.
In her role as the Chief Cashier at the Bank of England, Cleland’s name appears on every single newly printed note issued by Britain’s central bank, including on the nearly one billion fresh £10 notes that came into circulation in the UK on Thursday.
Britain’s newly released £10 note is the most secure and advanced in the history of UK, and earlier this week Cleland — who takes overall responsibility for notes at the bank — sat down with Business Insider to discuss the technological advances in the new notes.
Those advances have allowed the bank to create a note that is not only more secure, but that also has features that assist the visually impaired, and is smaller and more efficient than ever before.
“The tactile feature for the blind and partially sighted is a really important development,” Cleland said, discussing the very visible series of bumps on the note, which allow those with visual impairments to distinguish the notes from others.
The bumps are similar in style to Braille, but do not have any meaning in the language.
When it comes to security, the Bank of England has invested heavily in a series of new features, both visible and invisible that make it much more difficult to counterfeit the notes, which are printed on an advanced polymer made by the firm CCL Secure.
There are eight new visible features in total:
- A large see through window in the note, which includes a picture of the Queen;
- An image of Winchester Cathedral in gold on one side, and silver on the other;
- A quill which changes colour from orange to purple depending on the angle it is seen from;
- A hologram which shows the word “ten” from some angles, and the word “pounds” from others;
- A hologram of a crown, which appears in 3D from some angles;
- Raised print on the words “Bank of England” on the note.
- Writing under the Queen’s portrait which cannot be read by the naked eye, but is visible under a microscope;
- A copper foil patch depicting a book and the initials of Jane Austen, who appears on the note’s reverse;
As well as the visible features, the note also features a component that can only be seen under UV light, adding an extra layer of protection against counterfeiting.
“There are two key parts of counterfeit resilience. One is raising the bar to make it difficult to counterfeit, and in doing that we’d be looking at how long it takes to counterfeit a note, what sort of materials are needed, how easily accessible are they, how much they will cost, what equipment do you need.”
This effectively boils down to whether or not it is worth the effort and time for counterfeiters to reproduce the notes, Cleland said.
“The second side is will it be accepted? If you do all that, how good a reproduction can you get.”
Cleland told Business Insider that the Bank of England had to balance increased security against more and more sophisticated counterfeiters, with the need for features that are easy to understand for the general public.
“Another key thing we look at is how easy is it for an individual to authenticate the note,” she said.
“We’re looking for things that are easy for people to see and to understand, and explain.”
“You can have all sorts of wizzy security features, but if they can’t be explained in a simple sentence, people are not going to know what to do, and will turn the notes inside-out, back-to-front [trying to work out if they’re real].
“It is getting the combination of something that is very difficult to replicate, but is also easy and intuitive to understand.”
That trade-off was one of the key reasons the bank took the decision in 2013 to move to polymer notes.
“That’s one of the key benefits you get from polymer — the ability to get this large see-through window. That is very difficult to replicate in any sort of size whatsoever, but also it’s something the public can know,” Cleland said.
Another deterrent to criminals is that even when done officially the new notes are relatively expensive to print. The roughly one billion printed by the BoE so far have cost £84 million, the equivalent of about 1.2 pence per note. That may not sound like a lot, but in the pantheon of bank notes it is pretty pricey.
Goodbye to the £50?
When thinking about counterfeiting and illegal activity, one form of cash is king — high value notes.
Criminals carrying out activities using large amounts of cash tend to use higher denomination notes for those activities. That has prompted some central banks, including the European Central Bank, to take the largest denominations out of circulation.
While it will launch a new £20 in 2020, the Bank of England has yet to announce any plans for a new £50. Does that mean it is planning to follow the ECB and remove its largest note from circulation? Absolutely not, Cleland says.
“We certainly aren’t contemplating withdrawing the £50 note, as we’re seeing a strong demand for them,” Cleland says.
As an example, she notes that many £50s “go overseas to bureaux de change — for tourists it is much easier to come over with larger notes.”
A lack of any announcement is simply down to the fact that “it takes a long time to produce a new bank note.”
“We’re starting to think about the £50, and what it will be. It is more that we just haven’t decided. I’m not planning to withdraw them at all.”