Since the COVID-19 pandemic changed the world’s behaviour, ATM usage has seen a rapid decline in most geographies. This has been powered by a combination of lack of movement and economic activity (due to enforced lockdowns); an increased use of alternate channels including mobile or, even encouraged by retailers, a possibly irrational fear of the risks of handling cash, although that theory is pretty much debunked now.
In 2021, the world hopes to see a gradual return to a “new normal” and as this occurs, the ATM will be a lifeline to demographics who are not comfortable with digital banking, or who are reliant on cash – writes Mark Aldred.
ATMs, far from simply serving utilitarian, transactional purposes can, in fact, become relationship-building tools for banks that opt to add capabilities such as two-way video, account opening, instant card issuing, check book printing and other multifunction technologies.
In the future, the potential exists for the ATM to be a Teller Machine. Rather than simply a source of cash, self-service technology can be at the heart of the redefinition of the retail banking experience provided 24-hours per day wherever there is demand.
Around the world of course ATMs and devices based on the same hardware and software technologies will be deployed in volumes determined by local demand, and we will see a replacement program with a generation of cash-and-dash machines being replaced with recycling and deposit devices as well as “assisted service devices” to meet consumer demand cost effectively.
Tearing out and tearing down is not the answer
Legacy Banks are suffering a perfect storm; massive reductions in customers’ utilizing traditional banking channels and new entrants seizing market share with innovative digital only solutions.
Tearing down branches and tearing out ATMs often from communities that aren’t ready to see them go has been the blunt instrument employed to reduce costs and increase efficiencies. But there’s a risk in terms of lost customer loyalty and reputational damage. Self-service can be at the heart of mitigating this.
Globally self-service will be complemented by assisted service and remote service to offer an alternative to digital-only banking. It will be the differentiator for legacy banks and their vehicle to defend them from neobanks and fintechs trying to disrupt the market on the cheap.
There is a need for greater imagination from some parts of the industry to use advances in self-service banking technology that can give a community a bank branch in a box or rejuvenate their bank branch as a focal point for financial services. The ability to customize modern ATMs to offer additional services from paying a bill to doing a live video call with a financial product specialist also allows cash access to be subsidized through generating extra revenues.
The benefits of self-service
Every consumer has personal needs and enjoy particular benefits from their choice of channel when engaging with their bank. It could be personalized customer journeys, informative and promotional messages or contextual marketing messages
But for those dependent on cash, self-service will be their lifeline. For communities who might otherwise lose all access to banking, self-service ATMs will prevent their rapid decline and keep their retail centers relevant. In branch, it can be a contact-free way to access all banking services, around the clock securely.
Banks have for many years relied on technology to reduce their costs and increase efficiencies so that they can distribute their products and services to their customers using the most appropriate, cost effective channels. Customer-centric technologies have provided the data and tools to manage relationships in the most profitable way.
However, every generation of innovation in retail banking delivery, every new technology has created physical distance between the bank and its customers. That means banks are more vulnerable than ever to competition in a world of near limitless choice.
Technology, for the first time, is constraining banks. Their self-service infrastructure is typically reliant on technologies which are decades old, expensive to maintain and frustrating when it comes to innovation. That needs to be modernized so that banks can start to realize the potential of these technologies.
Branch operations need to be automated using hardware and software to deliver a comprehensive banking experience around the clock and anywhere there is demand.
When we speak of technology, it is easy to think about AI. That can also empower banks in delivering personalized customer experience (omnichannel marketing) and manage banking assets and cash more effectively (let’s think to predictive maintenance).
Moving forward, banks will need to accommodate all of their clients’ preferences. Allowing choice to customers so that they can navigate the bank’s services their way will only be a starting point. Customer-centric does not mean forcing everyone to a mobile-only experience which may not even prove reliable, and is unlikely to differentiate a bank in a world full of choice.
Behind everything they do, banks will also need to guarantee security. A topic which is so important and so public is also one that is too often treated as a side issue.
Using tools which are specifically designed to provide comprehensive security and control should be a minimum requirement for banks. Recycling practices which work in a desktop environment is not good enough for banking channels; special focus must be brought to bear.
Those who stick with a legacy infrastructure will find change too expensive, too high risk and too complex. They will not be able to adapt and innovate at pace and will be at risk of losing customers and business.
Closing branches and not using emerging technologies to offer an alternative will disenfranchise sections of their customer base and alienate others
Not keeping up to date will lead to a race to the bottom where our financial services will be provided by a barely differentiated range of app-based entities to whom customers feel no loyalty.
Why banks should consider #NextGenBranch
What is #Nextgenbranch? It’s a full service 24-hour branch that can be anywhere. It is fully automated, yet provides a safe space for interactions both digital and personal with a bank.
It can be shared and be utilized for a vast range of purposes, customized for the community it serves. Because of this, the business case will be very different from that of a legacy branch and so will its footprint.
It will provide lower costs and increased revenues as well as a platform for promotion of complementary third-party products and service. It will send a message to communities and to individual customers that they are valued.
The real future of the ATM
We may need to find a new name for the ATM as there seems to be so much reluctance to see it as anything other than a cash machine.
Whatever we call it, self-and assisted-service technology, delivered securely and to recognized industry standards, it will complement web, mobile, telephone and other banking channels and redefine the spaces we use to engage with our banks and the hours that they are open for business.
A fully automated branch, where bank staff are there to provide high value services will be built on the same technology that drives our ATMs today, but with a modernized infrastructure so as to free up its full potential.