"A New, Faster and Cooler way to improve customer interaction."
I have borrowed my headline from Ramiro Sanchez-Crespo, Relationship Director at la Caixa of Spain, who showcased the bank's Contactless Barcelona project at European ATMs 2012 last week in London.
Sanchez-Crespo's redefinition of NFC provided the perfect opening statement about one of the key themes of this year's largest-ever conference with 500 attendees.
There is a real sense of resurging interest in the ATM channel in Europe right now, with a defined focus on extending the range of customer services offered via ATMs and, equally important, on reducing costs.
la Caixa of Spain, which is well known for offering more than 200 services to their customers via their bespoke ATM, Punt Groc, gave insight on the roll-out of NFC contactless devices at 500 of their ATMs in Barcelona. This contactless project also included the issuance of 1.5 million cards and 17,000 POS terminals.
Sanchez-Crespo stated quite clearly, "It is not about moving transactions from cash to card. It's not about taking low-value payments to cards. It's all about customer choice."
Further insights on taking the ATM beyond cash services were shared bymulti-market banking giant Unicredit of Germany, as well as SEB of Sweden, Nordea Latvia and Italy's Intesa Sanpaolo. Additional global insight was provided by HFDC of India.
Clearly the move to self-service for transactional banking will also deliver cost efficiencies. But the other predominant theme in Europe right now is that of tackling the cost of cash.
There is a huge range of approaches and strategies in deployment across the region. Case studies presented at the conference included one on deposit automation by Bank of Ireland; one on retail partnerships by Bankhaus August Lenz & Co. of Germany; one on intelligent cash solutions by Erste Bank of Croatia; and one on cash recyclers by BMO of Canada.
Additionally, a panel discussion on reducing the cost of cash highlighted the fact that the industry will be encouraged to work at a pan-European level to bring down the cost of cash for the consumer.
An issue that continually arose in conversations and presentations was the current restriction on direct charging at the ATM. European retail banks and ATM operators face a climate in which the regulators want to deliver basic banking services, including ATM access; therefore the industry needs an open and transparent mechanism whereby members can identify their true costs and can choose to apply direct charges to their customers.
We must all take a leaf from la Caixa's book and realize that it is not about cash versus non-cash transactions, but about customer service. Surely, that has to be the overarching objective of the ATM channel.
Flora Hamilton joined the ATM Industry Association (ATMIA) with responsibility for Europe in October 2009. Trained in business science, Flora has previously worked for the Public Relations Consultants Association, BBC Worldwide, the Press Association and Association for Measurement & Evaluation of Communication.