For most of us in the U.S., flying into Miami for last week’s ATMIA 2011 conference was like coming in out of the cold.
While many of us left our snow-covered homes behind, the buzz at the conference also hinted that the industry’s economic deep freeze of the past few years may be loosening its grip.
Consider that the conference was the largest in the association’s 14-year history (859 attendees this year versus 2010’s own record-setting 735 delegates – an increase of 124, or 17 percent ). There were 70 exhibitors, up 27-percent from last year’s all-time high of 55.
The ATMIA U.S. board meeting attracted more than 40 people – the largest such meeting I’ve ever attended. Everyone’s energy and participation could have kept us there all afternoon. From Jan. 2010 to now, 22 new U.S. board members have signed on.
Here are some other notables from the conference:
• The board of directors decided to nearly triple the size of the board over the next few years
• Global membership has grown to 511 companies in 50 countries
• ATMIA reported a six-figure surplus from operations in 2010
• ATMIA invested more in the industry in 2010 than in its previous 11 years combined; this year, it has already invested $100,000 in a legal defense for its IAD members
• Last week, ATMIA submitted a letter to the Federal Reserve Board in response to the various aspects of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act
• Tim Wildash, CEO of Australian ISO Customers ATM (and an ATMIA board member), announced that after years of effort by him and others, New Zealand has finally allowed independent ATM deployment within its borders
Cash holding strong
Mike Lee, ATMIA’s CEO, delivered a reassuring presentation on the future of cash. Despite forecasts of a cashless society, he said the United States is nowhere near fulfilling this doomsday prophecy.
According to a January 2011 report by Aite Group titled “The Less-Cash Society: Forecasting Cash Usage in the United States,” if the use of cash were to decline by 17 percent every five years – what their report predicts will indeed happen in 2015 – then the use of cash in the U.S. won’t fall below $1 billion before the year 2205, almost 200 years from now!
Richard Cummings from Retail Banking Research reported that we’ll hit 3 million ATMs worldwide by 2015. His firm also found there were 62 billion cash withdrawals in 2009 around the world; there will be 95 billion by 2015.
In 2007, I stuck my neck out to predict that the global ATM footprint would double in 10 years from 1.56 million to a little over 3 million in 2017. My good friend Dominic Hirsch (RBR’s MD) questioned this based on the depressed state of the industry at that time, but his newly updated, post-recession numbers have us hitting 3 million two years earlier than even I thought.
Few other 43-year-old industries can boast such growth figures!
Not all roses
The ATM industry has challenges, to be sure. Frederick Lowe, ATMmarketplace’s editor, has reported relentlessly on a bevy of regulatory threats. A new one I heard about last week was a potential sales tax to be levied on all ATM transactions in South Dakota. ATMIA and Frederick will both watch this one closely.
The Middle East crisis may impact our industry indirectly. If the price of oil continues to climb, higher gas prices could hit CIT and service organizations, forcing them to raise rates to cover the additional cost, which of course trickles down to IADs and FIs. Adding this issue to the list of compliance upgrades and increasing government scrutiny could make it tricky for independents, who must have margin to survive.
According to Sam Ditzion of Tremont Capital Group, additional challenges to deployers include interchange erosion, growing ATM fraud in the U.S., new ADA requirements taking effect in 2012, and the rising cost of cash.
While no industry is immune to unpredictable market threats, I couldn’t help smiling at the ironic list of opportunities Sam Ditzion presented during his talk:
• The ADA requirements will be an upgrade boon for ATM manufacturers
• The Durbin Amendment may actually cause a moderate uptick in cash usage
• Prepaid cards and the lottery are migrating to the ATM
• More banks are exiting high-volume retail ATM locations, opening them up for IADs to manage
Sam said this is the highest degree of unification he has ever seen in this industry. I echo that. The committee meetings last week hummed with issues, activity and debate. Traffic in the exhibit hall bustled with swarms of people descending on booths.
Kudos to you, Mike Lee, for leading this association – and the entire industry – to unsurpassed success.
In my view, the roses outnumber the dandelions 10 to one. Future, here we come!
Tom Harper is president of Networld Media Group, a publisher of online trade journals and events for the banking, retail, restaurant and church leadership markets. He is the author of Leading from the Lions' Den: Leadership Principles from Every Book of the Bible (B&H).