Regulations, migrations, transformations and a really big hurricane: Weathering the past year was no small undertaking for the financial services industry in general, and for ATM owners in particular.
Here, in no special order (except alphabetical) are the top stories of 2012:
1. ADA — After the mad rush to meet new ADA regulations by March 15, ATM owners heaved a collective sigh of relief — except for those who are still working to upgrade to new or refurbished machines. They have little time to lose; ADA-related lawsuits began rolling just weeks after the deadline. So far, one Pittsburgh attorney alone has filed 39 lawsuits on behalf of just two legally blind plaintiffs.
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2. ATM-dispensed prepaids — Better ATM Services debuted a Visa-branded prepaid designed to dispense from an ATM cash cassette. The three-panel snap-apart sheet includes card, disclosures and space for an ad or coupon. The card was piloted in fixed values, but now allows purchasers to load any amount. It officially rolled out nationwide in October and is already showing up in ATMs.
3. Auto-deposit ATMs — They're not brand-spanking new technology, but this year, auto-deposit machines seemed to gain a lot of traction. FIs are finding that they significantly reduce traffic at the teller window, making time for product sales. And customers are finding that the convenience and (at many banks) the instant access to deposited funds are pretty nice.
4. Branch transformation — A product of the "new banking realities" of the post-Great Recession world, the transformed branch focuses on cost control and customer experience. These (often) small, efficiently designed facilities provide the usual branch services through a mix of concierges, personal bankers and self-service facilities that suit a tech-oriented customer base.
5. EFTA Reg E legislation — The ATM Industy Association, the National ATM Council, the Electronic Funds Transfer Association and scores of others made countless telephone calls, written pleas and personal visits to Capitol Hill to make the case for ending physical fee notice rule. Congress took note. Both houses passed legislation ending the requirement and the bill now awaits Obama's signature.
6. EMV Migration — Deployers didn't have much time to think about a switch to smart chip cards early on, but after March 15 the questions about EMV implementation came fast and furious. Answers are still in short supply, but for the ATM industry at least one now seems apparent: With an ATM liability shift now on the MasterCard roadmap, upgrading to EMV is no longer an optional expense.
7. Mobile prestaging — ATM manufacturers are responding to the precipitous rise of the smartphone by integrating it into the ATM transaction flow. The process, "mobile prestaging," involves setting up a cash withdrawal using a smartphone app, then triggering disbursement at the ATM by scanning a QR code or entering a one-time PIN. Trend or a fad? Time will tell.
8. Outsourcing — Another effect of the Great Recession, outsourcing was the subject of white papers, webinars and trade show workshops this year. And it often makes sense. Rapidly changing technology, shifting regulatory requirements, limited support staff and upfront costs are causing FIs to look closely at outsourcing as the smartest solution for their ATM fleets.
9. Retail Teller Machines — KAL debuted its new RTM with a mid-June kick-off at a retail store in New York City's bustling Times Square. "The cashless ATM" dispenses a receipt that the user redeems for cash at the merchant's check-out. For the retailer, the RTM could mean increased foot traffic from consumers in need of cash. For the FI it means freedom from the cost of moving, managing and safeguarding cash. The RTM is slated for mass rollout in early 2013.
10. Sandy — This "Frankenstorm" of a hurricane struck the Eastern Seaboard on Halloween, wreaking destruction and shutting down, well, everything, for a while. It also demonstrated that: 1) In a disaster, access to cash is critical; and 2) ATMs to can do a powerful amount of good. U.S. banks raised millions for the Red Cross by enabling donations at the ATM.
11. The death of cash — Yeah, that's not happening. But MasterCard, Visa and David Wolman, author of "The End of Money," would like it to be imminent. And they made a lot of noise to that effect this year. But cash in circulation continues to rise globally and it still accounts for an astounding 80 percent of all payments worldwide. Most likely, we'll all be gone well before cash is.
12. White label ATMs in India — The Reserve Bank of India set off a stampede of sorts when it dropped its prohibition against white label ATMs. In a move designed to push ATM service to rural, unbanked populations, the RBI declared that IADs could install ATMs under the auspices of a private bank. The number of machines in India is now expected to double to 200,000 within two years.
For more on this topic, visit the trends/statistics research center.