ATM safety: A global consumer perspective
by Martin Koffijberg, Director of Business Development — Banking and Finance, Axis Communications
As demonstrated by recent network problems that disabled card payments for many, we are still globally reliant on cash, and use it to pay for everything from groceries to gas.
Fifty years ago, if you needed to make a cash withdrawal, you would have had to wait until the bank opened and queue up for a teller, but on June 27, 1967, everything changed when the world's first ATM was installed in London.
However, with new technology comes new crimes, and criminals today see ATMs as an easy revenue generator. Understandably this can cause concern among consumers using ATMs. So, what are the issues and how can ATM providers outsmart the felons?
To understand the impact of the threat of crime at ATMs on users around the globe, Axis conducted the study, Global Consumer Perspectives on ATM Safety. The survey asked more than 6,000 consumers across China, Colombia, France, Italy, the United Kingdom and the United States about their use of ATMs and how they perceive safety when utilizing them.
Global consumer perspectives
The ATM provides advantages for people by providing customers easy access to their money, and for banks by increasing efficiency, reducing costs and growing their range of services.
However, as the study found, customers sometimes feel uneasy and worried when using ATMs, which can affect a bank's reputation. By implementing effective security measures such as installing surveillance cameras, banks can help change safety perceptions around ATMs and make people feel safer when using them.
Across all countries surveyed, 65 percent of respondents use an ATM to withdraw cash at least once every other week, with more than a quarter doing so at least once a week. It's an obvious thing to say, but if customers fear for their safety when using an ATM to withdraw cash, this can have a negative impact on the relationship with their bank.
The biggest consumer concerns relate to the environment in which they visit an ATM to make a cash withdrawal. The majority said they avoid using an ATM at night, while less than half (41 percent) said they have refrained from using an ATM during the daytime.
The most frequently mentioned reason for avoiding an ATM is "suspicious people nearby," giving rise to the fear of being robbed after making a cash withdrawal. Additionally, 76 percent of global respondents said they have been "occasionally" or "often" afraid to make cash withdrawals.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of survey respondents said they feel safest when using ATMs within the lobby of a bank, where there are additional safety measures such as (additional) surveillance cameras, security guards and, in many cases, cardholder-only access.
As financial institutions migrate transactions away from tellers and ATMs become the default place to withdraw cash and undertake banking activities, it is important to take actions to make people feel safe. So what are the possible solutions to build and increase customer confidence?
Measures to improve safety
Across all countries in the survey, the presence of a security guard near the ATM was most frequently cited by respondents as the most beneficial safety measure.
However, this solution is quite expensive and, with FIs trying to cut costs, there needs to be a reasonable balance between implementing an effective solution and the cost associated with it.
Video surveillance can provide an alternative to having a security professional beside every ATM. This measure was also popular amongst those surveyed with more than half of the respondents considering it very likely to prevent crime. The survey also found that consumers thought the benefits of using video for safety and security outweighed any privacy concerns.
An integrated set of security measures has proven to be the most effective option, with video surveillance playing a pivotal role. Not only can such surveillance make customers feel safer while maintaining the perception of privacy, but it can also enable additional deterrents against criminals.
For example, if a person is loitering nearby the ATM in a suspicious manner, smart video surveillance can trigger an alert to a security guard, who can respond immediately by deploying law enforcement or verbally warning the suspect over a connected speaker. This can prevent a crime from taking place or, at the very least, aid in the subsequent investigation of a crime.
ATMs will continue to play an important role in the interaction between banks and customers. In fact, their importance as a critical interface will grow (e.g., in the form of smart ATMs) in the future, which is why banks should act now to provide their customers with an experience that makes them feel safe.
Martin Koffijberg is director of business development for banking and finance at Axis Communications. His experience in fintech spans 35 years, including more than 15 years specific to ATMs. He has a deep understanding of ATM security and has advised FIs, industry partners and law enforcement agencies on the subject.