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Why ATMs Are a Successful Piece of 'Social Tech' Not Heading for Retirement Anytime Soon

Why ATMs Are a Successful Piece of 'Social Tech' Not Heading for Retirement Anytime Soon

The ATM turned 50 last week (on June 27, to be exact) and despite the spectacular growth of alternative payment methods and predictions that we are heading toward a cashless society, birthday celebrations around the world were upbeat. Most industry commentators seem to agree that the ATM is alive and kicking. As ACI’s Lu Zurawski, EMEA consumer payments lead, says in an interview with Forbes: “The ATM is a successful piece of social technology and won’t be heading for retirement any time soon.”  

Consumers worldwide want more innovative services from ATMs

And because ACI has played such a key role in the history of the ATM and today runs some of the largest ATM estates in the world, we thought it would be a good idea to ask our own global employees the role that ATMs play in their lives. It seems that topic struck a nerve with many, with more than 1,000 participants.

So, what did ACIers say? To begin with and this probably does not come as a surprise, more than two-thirds (69 percent) use ATMs less than they used to, citing the availability of alternative payment methods as the main reason. However, most ACIers still use ATMs regularly; 48 percent said they visit an ATM once or twice a month, and 26 percent said they visit an ATM about 3 to 4 times a month. The amount of cash withdrawn at each visit seems quite considerable; 25 percent of respondents said they usually take out 140 USD! Trips to the ‘cash machine’ might not be that frequent anymore, but the ‘peaceful coexistence’ between different methods of payments seems to be the order of the day with cash remaining part of the mix!

The list of services ACIers would like to see from the ‘ATMs of the future’ is long, especially in Asia where the majority (52 percent) want more services. The ability to make international money transfers, issue new debit or credit cards, collect loyalty points or make contactless withdrawals were some of the services most frequently mentioned. Others said they wanted the ability to book film or sports events tickets via an ATM, get Apple Pay support, buy long-distance bus tickets (in Latin America) or converting bitcoins into cash – the wish list for what we want our ATMs to be able to do seems to be open ended!

Financial institutions must continue to invest in ATM technology, even if cash usage declines

Evolving, adding new services and adapting to a new payments ‘world order’ is where the ‘new ATM’ will be heading, argues Andy McDonald, ACI’s Head of Merchants Payments EMEA. In an interview with Global Banking and Finance Review, he said: “I believe that the trend toward banks closing regional branches will put a greater emphasis on the role and functions of the ATM, and they really will become a ‘bank in a box.’ As a result, financial institutions must continue to invest in ATM technology, even if cash usage declines. At a global level, ATM deployment will continue to rise, as emerging economies roll out estates to service their customer bases.”

The biggest concern, however, when it comes to ATMs is security, with 77 percent of ACIers noting they are at least somewhat concerned about it and only 24 percent saying they felt confident that their ATM transactions are secure. It looks like the industry has its work cut out!

What is your favourite ATM?

My favorite part of the survey were the photographs of some of the more unusual ATMs or ATM locations around the world.

Below is a list of my ‘winning’ shots:

‘ATM girl’ is artwork by word renowned street artist Banksy. The photo was taken by Lu Zurawski near his North London home (unfortunately the painting including the ATM has since disappeared, making way for a corner bistro).

Why ATMs are a successful piece of ‘social tech’ not heading for retirement anytime soon

Jay Floyd, Principal Fraud Consultant, took this photo in his hometown of Dartmouth, England, of an ATM sitting so low to the ground that most people would have to kneel to use it.  (Jay normally asks his children to use it).

This photo of ATMs on the back of a mini-truck was sent in by Gaston Zuccala. Banks install these ATM on trucks so they can be used during the Argentinian summer season (December to March) in the resorts along the coast when demand for cash high!

Why ATMs are a successful piece of ‘social tech’ not heading for retirement anytime soon

And finally, this photo is from my friend Kirsten Giorgione. She does not work for ACI, but I must say this cupcake ATM in New York City looks very appealing to me!

Why ATMs are a successful piece of ‘social tech’ not heading for retirement anytime soon