There is widespread belief that the ATM’s existence is threatened by new payment technologies. But the ATM is fighting bank by becoming more innovative. We took a close look at the ATM and found that it is still part of the big wave of the future.

By Geraldine Ugbaja

For centuries making transactions with cash was the standard. Then came cards which changed the reliance on paper and coins for payment. But the end of cash payments now seems to be in sight with the rise of bank card and mobile payments. And just 10 years ago, the ATM became a regular more convenient source of cash. As we look into the future of money at the future of the ATM. Will the ‘cash machine’ make it to the year 2020? Consumers are paying more frequently using their bank cards or smartphones than ever before. This in some forecasts mean that some ATMs are not being used as much as they were used to.

In Nigeria, there is a policy driven momentum to move the economy from cash-based to a cashless system, and predictions for the imminent demise of cash have been accompanied by pronouncements of a slow, but sure death for the ATM. The belief is that there would not be any possible need for a technology platform whose single purpose is to dispense cash, a form of payment that the future expects that no one would use anymore. But one unique attribute of the ATM is that it like the human teller it can adapt to change.

ATMs were first introduced over 40 years ago and since then many features have been incrementally added to the machines, in order to fulfill the dream of a truly “automated teller” capable of offering actual interaction. Today, ATMs have gone beyond the proponents’ dream of a cash dispenser to offer a wide range of banking transactions capabilities. And financial institutions and innovators still find ways not only to further automate the teller, but rather to humanize the machine. Rapid changes in technology as well as consumers’ perceptions of the ATM saw it move from being a simple cash dispenser to new strategies that placed at the centre of multichannel delivery systems for financial services.

Some ATMs were innovated to accept cheques clearing the way for financial institutions to implement other the solutions that facilitate purchases and payments. In Nigeria, banks are deploying advanced functionality ATMs and consumers are embracing the changes with open arms.

Guaranty Trust Bank for example recently launched deposit ATMs which allow customer to deposit cash at the ATM. Inlaks, a Nautilus Hyosong partner, recently also unveiled the Hyosung 8600 series which not only accept deposits but recycles cash deposits to dispense to customer. Interswitch’s quickteller services has gone viral on most ATM machines in Nigeria, making it possible for anyone with a payment card or mobile money app to recharge phone credit, pay bills, purchase airline tickets and transfer money to other bank accounts. Yet, these are only the beginning of innovation in the industry.

While doubts persist about the future of the ATM because of new consumer touch points – smartphones, tablets, kiosks, notebooks, etc. financial institutions and their customers still see ATMs in a new light. It has become an integral and essential part of Nigerian society such that customers see an easy way of obtaining their cash at a low cost, while banks see it as reducing queues in their halls. But it turns out they can do much more, and more quickly and efficiently. To keep up with the millennial changes, ATM manufacturer, are building ATMs that offer more. Diebold deployed the first of a completely new kind of ATM that has no physical buttons or card reader. Users do nearly all their interactions with it through the cloud using a smartphone.

In the United States, NCR has installed drivethru ATMs that connect to remote human tellers. These machines let people talk to a remote teller on a video monitor allowing customers to do things that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. This is not a simple video chat. The teller on the screen is controlling that machine and all its functions. For example, if you lose or forget your ATM card, the teller can let you withdraw money if you can prove your identity by showing a driver’s license. Such ATMs make fraud like skimming basically impossible. Customers conduct very little interaction directly with the ATM itself.

Another benefit: faster service. Because the remote teller doesn’t have to count cash or physically enter the amount of each check – the machine does it – transactions are conducted more quickly than they would be inside the branch. By the way, the machines work like any other ATM unless the customer pushes a button to request a human teller. Analysts believe it’s critical that customers decide when they want to do a totally self-service transaction and when they want some help. Some employees see the new ATMs as a threat – another wave of machines replacing humans. While the pace of ATM deployment has slowed in the past six years due to certain regulatory policies, banks are also ultimately aware of its uniqueness as a money-saver – it helps banks to control their costs.

As an ATM engineer, trainer and enthusiast, I recognize that a lot of cool things are possible in and with the ATM. I believe technology finds acceptance on the validity of its purpose. I also recognize and believe that the future of the ATM is intertwined with that of banking. Any ground-breaking technology that will drive banking will also find support from the ATM. All it requires is for the ATM industry to adapt to a changing marketplace.


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