ATMIA CEO makes headlines in China

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ATMIA CEO makes headlines in China

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Turning a small plastic card into cash is the modern equivalent of turning metal into gold. At least that's the way Mike Lee, the chief executive of the global ATM Industry Association, sees it. And his view is garnering some attention.

In July, Lee appeared on the cover of a monthly banking magazine that is published and produced by China's largest ATM manufacturer, Guangzhou City-based GRG Banking Equipment Group Ltd.  

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ArcaTech Systems ArcaTech Systems | Scanners | Acceptors | Dispensers As a leading supplier of transaction automation solutions for the financial, retail and self-service industries, ArcaTech offers cash dispensers, cash recyclers, check image scanners, encrypting pin pads and coin dispensing systems to help users to experience better transactions. 

Lee says his profile in the magazine was partly spurred by his visit to Hong Kong last year, where he spread the message about the critical role ATMs play in developing economies. But the press coverage also was fueled by Lee's recent articles and presentations about his expectations for the future of cash — a unique and in-depth analysis that also landed Lee a speaking spot at October's ATM, Debit & Prepaid Forum in Arizona.

Lee says he expects to have an article published in GRG's September issue that covers his predictions for ATM growth in China.

"ATMS are being installed at a rapid rate in China," Lee said. "We have 400,000 ATMs in the United States, where the Chinese have 130,000, but ATMs become a main distribution channel for cash to circulate in the economy and to be spent. As China puts in more ATMs and cash circulates more efficiently, we hope the retail sector will grow."

A man with a mission

Lee, who in December expects to complete his work for a degree in futures studies, has cast a unique perspective on the future of cash in societies throughout the world. As a futurist in training Lee has developed a system that analyzes cash's future by cross-comparing it with economic and social trends, scientific discovery and invention, governmental pressures and regulations, history, and a whole host of other factors that impact how societies and the technologies they use evolve.

"You try to read the signs of the times and make forecasts about how future trends are going to prevail based on the past," Lee said.

And yes: To Lee, cash is a technology.

"Cash is the most successful technology ever invented in at least 27 centuries," Lee said. "Cash is popular because it's easy to use. It doesn't cost the consumer anything to use cash. There's no credit risk; there's no settlement risk."

When Lee was in New Orleans February for the main annual ATMIA event in the United States, he put his philosophy studies to use and applied them to cash.

Lee's research shows that 70 percent of all ATM transactions conducted in 2007 involved cash withdrawals — a rather significant number, when one considers that the global ATM count is now 1.6 million.

The bottom line: Lee doesn't see cash going out of style anytime soon.

"It confounds the misconception and widespread myth that we are heading inevitably toward a cashless society," Lee said.

When Lee took the job at ATMIA in 2004, one of his primary goals was to expand membership. He succeeded – more than doubling membership to 1,050 and expanding the association representation to 50 countries.

"There is going to be strong ATM growth in countries like China, India, South Africa, Nigeria, Russia and Eastern Europe," he said. "There is phenomenal worldwide growth in mobile phones, and there are increasing interfaces between ATMs and mobile phones."

Lee says ATMIA expects a growing, close relationship between mobile devices and ATMs. 

"You can do banking on cell phones and you can use cell phones to activate transactions instead of using a card," Lee said. "You can top off time on cell phones with an ATM. All of this could mean a lot, particularly to developing nations where there aren't many brick-and-mortar banks."

Additionally, Lee is working to promote some new initiatives, like the global ATM pictogram that ATMIA introduced in April, best practices and efforts to fight crime.

"The ATM industry is a global village with processes that are the same the world over, so we can go to developing countries and say, ‘We have a whole set of best practices here. Take them, read them, use them.'"

 And crime is a whole other topic, Lee says.

"Crime is a fast-moving target," he said. "It's continually migrating to different areas.  From attacking the machines to skimming the cards to robbing the guys delivering cash. You have to look constantly at the new methods criminals are using and how we can thwart them."

Topics: Asia, Australia & Pacific, Associations / Conferences, Bank / Credit Union, Branch Transformation, Central and Eastern Europe, Distributors / ISO / IAD, Kiosks/Self-Service, Latin America, Middle East & Africa, North America, Other, Trends / Statistics

Companies: ATM Industry Association (ATMIA)

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