'Good minds at work' in the ATM industry

Jan. 10, 2013 | by Suzanne Cluckey

On January 1, Mansel Guerry took the helm of the nation's largest credit union-owned ATM and point-of-sale network, Tallahassee, Fla.-based Credit Union 24. He stepped into the shoes of Jim Park, who spent much of his career building the business.

Before joining CU24, Guerry served for nearly 10 years as president and CEO of Brightview Credit Union in Ridgeland, Miss., transforming the CU from a limited-service, limited-scope institution into a full-service, multibranch FI. He brings this same forward-looking approach to his new post at CU24.

The following ATM Marketplace Q&A with Guerry is the first in a planned series of conversations with changemakers in the ATM industry. If you know of one, tell us about him or her.

How have things changed for you now that you're CEO?

I've been on a few warm-up laps and it's like a flag dropped and now it's off to the races.

I'd had the opportunity to put some things in place and discuss some things with people and get some folks pointed in the right direction. And so all of those plans and all of those discussions started coming to fruition a week ago.

It's really exciting to see the level of energy that's going on here. We're starting to look at some things and … getting ready to really move in a direction.

For instance?

I'm not at liberty to say who, but right now we're engaged in strategic discussions with an independent deployer … serving credit unions who have decided they don't want to deal with managing a fleet of terminals in-house.

It's a move that banks — and credit unions in some cases — are making, where they're selling their ATMs and striking a deal of some sort where their members and customers can go to [the deployer's] ATMs as if they were theirs, but washing their hands of the dirty work, so to speak.

We want to be able to offer them [that option] through a trusted partner. And that's what we've found in this relationship we're pursuing.

What's your assessment of the ATM industry right now?

Now, rather than just seeing the number of overall deployed ATMS go up, you're seeing those deployed ATMs shift around. You're [seeing] redeployment of ATMs in different places. Or you're seeing deployment in the same places, but by different entities with different missions.

It's a mature industry, and like any industry that reaches a level of maturity, then it becomes kind of a redefinition of the product lifecycle or the product itself. Each time you have a generational shift you've got to be able to redefine your product in a way that it continues to meet the needs of the present-day market.

And that's what I see happening when I look at ATMs. It's a mature business, but there are some good minds at work in the business that are constantly looking to redefine what that machine can do.

Speaking of generational shifts, what impact will Millennials have on the industry?

[G]o to the local mall, or go to a college campus and observe how many of those younger people are walking around [with a smartphone] in their hand like they've got to be Quick-Draw McGraw and have it ready, because "You may try to call me, or you may text me, or there may be some update on Facebook or whatever and I need to know it right away."

[The smartphone] has become an extension of who they are. And as soon as we can get that next capability — the ability to utilize that phone instead of a plastic card — as soon as it comes into being, then we need to be ready.

And if the ATM industry is an important piece of our business — whether as an entire entity or just a segment of our business — we need to be studying today how we will adapt … so that we're not caught off guard when that becomes the way to do business.

What's your take on the trend toward branch reinvention?

I think we have not yet really begun to realize the potential of employing or deploying [self-service] automation on a branch level. If we can ever get it to take root, you're going to see, potentially, a surge in the ATM industry.

Again, it's that redefinition of a mature delivery system — taking the same piece of machinery and using it a different way. It has that "wow" factor to it and it catches on.

Think about home banking. You thought you needed somebody on the other end of the phone to help you with that transaction, but once you figured out you could do it 24/7 at home on your laptop, you then don't say, "OK, this is nice but now I'm going back to only dealing with a live person between the hours of 8 and 5."

Now that reloadable prepaids put a plastic card in practically anyone's grasp, is cash headed for extinction?

As much as I know there are some people that would like us to go to a cashless society, I think that for some years to come — for a long time to come — there's just going to be a segment of our population that wants to carry currency.

The challenges that I think really loom on the horizon [come from] other technologies — P-to-P capability, and just the general smartphone capability. And I still think there's the potential out there that more people will get on board with getting cash back at a point-of-sale terminal rather than going to a separate ATM.

Those are threats to the industry. And again … innovative approaches are key to the ATM industry remaining vibrant and viable in the overall financial services industry. 

So ... it seems that your focus at CU24 will be pretty much on anticipating and meeting change.

The employees here at Credit Union 24 have heard me say this and they will hear me say this: Everybody wants to stay in their comfort zone, but you die in your comfort zone.

Think about it — When you become old and grey and frail and somebody says, "You're in your last days," what do we want to do? We want to make you comfortable.

As a business or as an individual ... we really need to have an interest in exploring, in being curious about the things we don't know. If you start educating yourself on those things then pretty soon you get familiar with them and then you can make some intelligent decisions.

For more on this topic, visit the transaction processing research center.

Topics: Bank / Credit Union , Transaction Processing

Suzanne Cluckey / Suzanne’s editorial career has spanned three decades and encompassed all B2B and B2C communications formats. Her award-winning work has appeared in trade and consumer media in the United States and internationally.
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