'You've come a long way, baby': 50 years of ATM memories

 
Feb. 16, 2017 | by Suzanne Cluckey

Every industry conference has its share of themes, golden threads that run through general sessions and breakouts, exhibit hall demos and happy hour meet-ups.

At this year's ATMIA US conference the themes included EMV liability shifts, security, value-added services, cardless access, branch transformation, cash management … and one unique to 2017: the 50th anniversary of the ATM.

Mention of this milestone was everywhere, from a special exhibit of ATM milestones over the years to a panel discussion by industry veterans who shared memories and lessons from careers spent striving and advocating for industry progress from the ATM's earliest years through its rise to global ubiquity.

Moderator Tom Harper, founding director of the ATM Industry Association and founder of ATM Marketplace, was joined by panelists including:

  • Bob Barone, former Diebold vice chairman and former EFTA chairman
  • Dale Dooley, former president and CEO of Shazam and its predecessor, ITS Inc.
  • Jim Hanisch, executive vice president of Co-op Financial Services
  • Robert Aulebach, CEO of Clear Lake Consultants, formerly senior vice president at Bank of America

Here are some of their comments:

Tom Harper: What was your first experience with ATMs?

Jim Hanisch: We had five Docutels that had serial numbers under 100 and we knew we wanted to get new ATMs — online ATMs that didn't dispense money in envelopes. We were part of Norwest and the corporate direction was IBM and Docutel.

Our CEO went on a safari to Africa, comes back and calls a couple of us into his office and says, "What do you know about Diebold ATMs?"

And I said, "Well they've got these new 910s and they're supposedly pretty good."

"Well that's really good news, because I sat next to a gentleman named Raymond Kuntz on the flight back from Africa and I bought 20 of them."

So, that's how I got into the ATM business.

Bob Barone: I worked for a little bank called County Trust in White Plains New York, which was subsequently purchased by Bank of New York. I remember I was a management trainee and they called this big meeting of pretty much everybody in the operations center.

So we go down there and they put on this big speech, then the head of marketing gets up and unveils this ATM that none of us had seen before. It actually was a Docutel … The first one we saw was in our operations center and we didn't even give it to customers, because we had to get everyone on board to do so.

Bank of New York was one of the first to challenge interstate banking law. They wanted to go into Connecticut and so to do that they filed suit, but they started out by doing it with ATMs. And the Fed came out and said, "No, ATMs are not branches so you can go across the line." So we started doing as many remote ATMs as anywhere else.

Tom Harper:What do you take away from your early experience?

Robert Aulebach:For us to not forget the human factor in everything we do. We're a lot of times having technology trying to find a problem vs. technology trying to solve a problem — to get a solution to something.

So, I do worry about that because we're rushing ahead … but have we really done the research? Do people really want that? Get the basics done correctly to start.

I consult a lot and the No. 1 question I get from people — because [the vendor doesn't] talk to the customers; it's like, "yeah we have a great product and we'll sell that — is, "Why do I need to buy it? What's the value exchange?" And that's what we really need to keep the focus on.

Tom Harper: What causes you concern today?

Dale Dooley: My biggest concern is the erosion of interoperability across the country. I use an ATM at a large bank in Arizona. It's a member of Cirrus and Plus. I went to the ATM to try to do a transaction and it denied my transaction because I wasn't a customer of theirs or an affiliate of theirs.

So my concern is that you're losing your interoperability and your access and I think if you lose that then your industry is going to be hurt very much in the future.

The old rule of thumb for us was "access, access, access." And I think that is still true today. You have to have access to make this thing work. And I have to use a card to go here and another card to go there, it simply isn't going to work. Interoperability is key and concentration of power in the marketplace is a big, big concern.

Tom Harper: You all have lived through a lot of acquisitions and I wanted to know if you have any great M&A stories …

Jim Hanisch: When Docutel kind of imploded I think it was Olivetti that ended up taking them over. And of course the Docutels, each one had its own programming inside it. And you're wondering where the software is for all these machines you've acquired.

Well, somebody opens a closet and in there are rubber-banded decks of 80-column punchcards, and that is the inventory of software for Docutel back in the old days.

I think that any of us who have done any M&A work, it's absolutely buyer beware and no matter how good your due diligence is, you're going to get surprised.

illustration istock


Topics: Associations / Conferences, ATM History


Suzanne Cluckey / Suzanne’s editorial career has spanned three decades and encompassed all B2B and B2C communications formats. Her award-winning work has appeared in trade and consumer media in the United States and internationally. She is now the editor of ATMmarketplace.com and BlockChainTechNews.com
wwwView Suzanne Cluckey's profile on LinkedIn

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