An oasis in the cash desert: How UK FIs can reinvent the ATM channel

An oasis in the cash desert: How UK FIs can reinvent the ATM channel

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by Matt Grant, Business Development Director, RealVNC

At a time when thousands of bank branches are closing, the recent news that thousands of cash machines might also close raises the spectre of cashless ghost towns with no retail banking facilities.

Plans by Link, the U.K.'s largest cash machine network, to reduce interchange rates over the next four years will make it even harder for deployers to cover the operating costs of ATMs, which is likely to lead to the closure of free-to-use machines across the country. 

It is projected that over the next few years, up to 30,000 cashpoints will disappear from U.K. high streets, causing the spread of "ATM deserts," which are a problem already in more than 200 locales.

Combined with mass bank branch closures (1,000 of them in 2017 alone) this could further affect customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The industry is being challenged to allay fears over the loss of customer service and cash withdrawal facilities, while also making free ATMs profitable enough to stay open. This is a difficult balancing act that requires a completely new way of thinking about ATMs and the services they offer.

Providers must begin to perceive ATMs not only as a cashpoint, but also as a one-stop-shop for all kinds of transactions — and a channel for customer service, engagement and upselling.

A number of pioneering institutions are beginning to recognize that changes in attitudes toward money can be replicated in the role ATMs play in society.

For instance, NCR is reinventing the ATM as a "bank in a box," which helps to mitigate concerns over mass branch closures, while also transforming the role of ATMs. The company claims that its new systems can actually perform up to 80 percent of the tasks normally transacted at a bank branch, and can eventually replace the need for physical facilities.

Actions such as cash and check deposits, card issuance and even customer service can be handled at the ATM, providing a way for people to use a much wider range of bank services. 

Additionally, there are plans for "iPhone ATMs" with touch screens, "recirculating cashpoints" that accept deposited coins, "selfie ATMs" that use face ID, and cashpoints that allow customers to order concert tickets and talk to an adviser by video link.

Making cashpoints easier to use and able to perform a wider array of functions will allow financial institutions to win back disaffected customers and find new revenue streams from ATMs.

Additionally, in an attempt to capitalize on the popularity of contactless payments, a number of ATMs now allow cardless access. Barclays recently unveiled cash machines that can dispense up to 100 pounds ($141) via contactless card or mobile phone. This reduces the amount of time customers spend at ATMs and mimics new transaction methods, simplifying access to cash.

Maximizing uptime is another way to increase the profitability of cashpoints and reduce customer frustration. Some institutions are using remote access technology to allow an engineer in a distant service center to resolve many technical problems in real time, reducing the need for expensive service visits and lengthy downtime.

In a further attempt to improve ATM uptime, operators are using remote access to implement system updates. As opposed spending an estimated 200 pounds to complete this process at the machine, engineers are able to remotely log in to the system and add new features or roll out new software.

Additionally, the ability to regularly and easily update ATM operating systems can safeguard against the threat of malware and "jackpotting," and their associated costs. 

ATMs can become more of a service touch point than previously imagined. They can provide a level of customer interaction once possible only in a face-to-face branch experience. This is an important method for generating customer loyalty at a time of mass branch closures.

Remote access software allows support teams to interact with customers at the ATM, creating "always on" customer service capability. Service representatives can now engage with customers to guide them step by step through transactions or inquiries using video, audio and on-screen annotations.

This helps banks realize the savings of branch transformation while retaining an older and more lucrative customer demographic that values human interaction.

If cashpoints are to remain viable and widely accessible, it is vital that financial institutions and operators reinvent the role of the ATM. The goal must be to help customers easily and reliably complete more actions at the ATM, and to use the channel to more effectively connect with those customers.

Matt Grant is business development director at RealVNC (, a provider of remote access and management software used in industry, government and education. The company's remote access software supports a mix of desktop and mobile platforms. Using RealVNC software SDKs, third-party technology companies can embed remote access technology directly into their products.


Topics: ATM Innovation, ATM Management, Branch Transformation, Omnichannel Banking, Trends / Statistics

Companies: NCR Financial Services

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