NCR looks to ATMs, mobility

| by Tracy Kitten
NCR looks to ATMs, mobility
Click here to see a slide show from the conference.
NCR Corp. is still an ATM company, but it's also much more.

Bill Nuti, the head of the Dayton, Ohio-based self-proclaimed "self-service-technology leader," has declared a revolution on the industry — one that forces banks, retailers, cellular-network providers and the like to focus attention not only on so-called "digital natives," but also the world's growing number of baby boomers and seniors.

Those with the buying power, Nuti says, will dictate the immediate future. But companies have to keep evolving and staying abreast of changing technology, just as the consumers they ultimately cater do.
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It's a brave new world, and those companies that grew up in the ATM space are no exception. In fact, they probably have a leg up in this fight, since they've been talking, thinking and breeding technology for decades.

For NCR, however, the philosophy is to stay focused on the main thing — the ATM — while building a bridge to the future through new offerings, such as mobile banking, self-service digital media, and so on.

And it was with that line of thought in mind that Nuti opened the company's third-annual Self-Service Universe conference in the Americas this month.

Among the event's 300 attendees, who ventured down to Orlando, Fla., April 2-4, the financial sector was strongly represented, accounting for about 40 percent of overall attendance. Retail attendees represented about 25 percent, travel came in at 18 percent, and healthcare represented about 9 percent.

An NCR spokesman says the travel and healthcare industries, while not strongly represented at the conference, are deemed by NCR to be emerging and growing markets.

Alas, banking/financial remains NCR's niche, at least from the looks of this year's show. Maybe it was the release of NCR's new SelfServ ATM line, the company's first new ATM release in a decade, that drew in the big banking numbers. Or, maybe it's NCR's shared experience on the retail and banking sides that garnered attention, since more financial providers are interested in learning more about how retailers operate.

Regardless of the rationale, self-service lives at the core of both, and NCR was sure to use the conference venue as an opportunity to promote both its SelfServ ATM line and its other self-service offerings.

The new SelfServ line has been touted by NCR for its unique ability to "self-heal," a term that comprises a number of facets, including the ATM line's ability to self-reboot when Windows goes down. But it also, in some way, includes the ATM's so-called friendliness, says Robert Johnston, NCR's senior marketing manager.

"We've approached the SelfServ with five things in mind: responsibility, manageability, availability, security and usability," he said. "We have improved the manageability of this line."

For one, all of the ATMs (which currently include the 20 and 30 series) run the same software and use interchangeable modules, a striking difference from the Personas line.

"Each module also has a serial number," Johnston said. "So when we go in to review the inventory, we can see exactly what module has gone out, where it has gone and for how long it's been in the terminal. So you can see what the ‘real' usage is, such as how long that module has been used in a particular ATM. It's allowing us to be more proactive, where ATM maintenance is concerned, rather than reactive."

Deposit automation

Not surprisingly, the ability to automate deposits featured strongly at the conference. It's one of the main selling points, NCR says, of the SelfServ line, because bankers can add that automated deposit feature at any time they're ready.

Long story short, it's not a function or feature that has to be purchased at the time of ATM installation.

NCR, like most ATM manufacturers, expects 2008 to be a year of envelope-free deposits at ATMs. Bill Nuti, NCR's president and chief executive, says it's a No. 1 priority for the company.

"We currently have 60 to 1,000 deposits at an ATM where we have deposit automation," Nuti said. "That's just one location, so we see this trend being huge, and I do see 2008 as being the beginning of a three-year rollout."

Nuti says he expects 40 percent of NCR's ATMs in the United States to transition to automated deposits throughout 2008; he expects another 40 percent to make the shift in 2009. By 2010, the trend will slow, he suggests, at which time NCR will only see about a 10 percent transition to the technology.

By that time, however, ATMs allegedly will be replaced with new terminals that already have the intelligent-deposit feature.

The mobile component

NCR closed the conference with a panel discussion about the future of mobile technology. Two companies with which NCR is working closely — MShift and MFoundry —discussed the inroads they're making in mobile banking. And a former banker turned consultant, Nona Wilgus, adamantly suggested that all banks must be moving toward mobile-banking solutions, should they want to maintain a competitive edge.

Not only is the mobile channel being looked to as an avenue to reach new customers — such as those who currently are unbanked or underbanked — but it also will service as a springboard for mobile opportunities, from the banking side to business opportunities that have not yet been considered.

"The use of the mobile channel in banking will drive adoption of mobile options overall. At least that's the way I see it," said Lauren Van Heerden of MFoundry. "If I can bank mobiley, then I can do anything mobiley. That's the way I think most people view it."

Topics: Associations / Conferences, Bank / Credit Union, Banking Executive Summary, Bank Security, Branch Transformation, Deposits / Check 21, Kiosks/Self-Service, Manufacturers, North America, Other, Public Companies, Security, Software, Trends / Statistics

Companies: NCR Financial Services

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