For the small ATM operator, big opportunities
Jon Weilbaker, General Manager, NewYorkATM.com
If you're a small ATM operator like me, you might have spent the last two years cursing the people who thought up EMV, the banks that continue to close accounts despite the end of Operation Chokepoint, and the states that now require registration of all nonbank ATMs.
And you might still be hoping that hackers can quickly figure out how to take out the new mobile payment apps that are hurting our transaction volumes.
On one hand, these issues have cost us all a lot of money and wasted a lot of our time. But on the other hand, they also have created great opportunities for the small ATM operator — in fact, greater than at any time since I got into the business in 2003.
Here are four developments that have created new opportunities for our business:
1) Merchant-load burnout
Small ATM operators have an opportunity to take over merchant-loaded locations.
I've found that, burdened with yet another upgrade (EMV is just one) and the same OCP bank account closures as many ATM operators, many store owners are gladly turning over the job of running their ATMs to professional operators.
Many merchants have older machines that need to be completely replaced to be EMV compliant and they do not want to spend the money.
Merchants are tired of fighting with their banks, and at some level among our immigrant storeowners, there is a fear of deportation if they "get in trouble" with their bank or their state regulatory authorities.
Merchants can eliminate the fear of chargebacks, regulatory issues, internal or external theft and the headache of maintaining increasingly technical equipment by turning over the ATM operations to us.
And most times, merchants can raise their surcharge fee to a market rate to cover the cost of outsourcing. So at the end of the month, the merchant ends up with the same income as before, but without the ongoing demand for investment and upkeep.
As a matter of fact, we have taken over more traditionally merchant-loaded locations in the past 30 days than we did in the past 10 years.
Lastly, we are noticing an increase in the number of merchants getting burned with EMV chargebacks following the Visa shift in October; word of this is starting to circulate in the merchant community and we predict a tidal wave of ATM outsourcing within the next few months.
2) Declining transaction fallout
Many part-time and larger out-of-state operators are giving up on small restaurants, bars and hotels as withdrawals fall and these sites become unprofitable for them.
In the past, these traditionally credit card-friendly locations did a decent ATM business. They tend to be nice clean locations with owners who want good service, and are willing providing us with a larger cut and higher surcharge fee in order to get it. So, yes, lower transaction volumes and less work, but also higher profitability.
These locations have been hit the worst as a result of the increasing use of mobile payments and plastic. But, by the same token, the competition has diminished, putting us in a better position to negotiate fee splits.
We recently picked up a busy hotel location because the previous operator wouldn't pay for a wireless box!
3) New technologies that increase efficiency and profitability
Technology now allows us to remotely reboot ATMs, print journals, and locate wireless modems and assess their signal strength.
ATM operators who embrace these and other new technologies become more operationally efficient, which allows them to run larger fleets and frees up more of their time to negotiate new contracts and maximize asset profitability.
New functionalities at the ATM, such as direct currency conversion (available now) or bitcoin purchase and cash-out capability (maybe coming soon) are certainly worth a try. These options are often available from your processor at no cost and can bring in extra income.
4) Conversion of high volume locations to armored car load
Very few of us small ATM operators have an unlimited reserve of cash. Because of this, it can make a lot of sense to develop a relationship with an armored carrier management company that can load higher volume locations.
This cuts down on stress and risk, and frees up vault cash that can be used instead to service a larger number of lower-volume locations.
The use of armored carriers also allows you to expand your geographic footprint — and it might not cost as much as you would think. There are many local armored carriers that do an excellent job loading ATMs.
The landscape for the small ATM operator is changing rapidly, but cash is not going away as a payment vehicle.
The successful small ATM operators will be nimble and resourceful enough to use these major changes to grow their business.