It has been several weeks since I returned from the ATMIA US Conference 2017 in Orlando. In addition to a couple of "It's my own damn fault!" t-shirts from Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville, I came back with a bag full of data sheets and trinkets.
At this year's event, the overriding takeaway was the sheer volume of ATM and ATM-like devices now on the market — about a hundred vendors were on the floor of the exhibition hall and nearly all of them had some aspect of an ATM covered. No question, if you want a specific device, you can have it essentially tailor-made to meet your needs.
Of my many conversations on the topic of ATM capabilities, almost all included some aspect of the user experience. What will the future hold for ATMs? Headless? Cashless? Converged with the branch? With a strong challenge to cash, is there even a future for ATMs?
Any time a banking executive wants to talk about the future in reference to ATM networks, I am among the first into the room. The session, Security and Trust in the NextGen ATM Network, by Citibank Director of Digital ATM Peter Kulik, was one I particularly wanted to attend.
As for what NextGen ATMs at Citibank will look like, Kulik made the FI's position clear. "They will have one or more of the following: They will be thin clients, with defined APIs [likely to be published for access by business partners]; feature micro services; and be connected to clouds where the payments solution is provided on a platform-as-a-service basis from a Citi-specified container [for manageable security]."
Clouds, containers, any type of XaaS, thin clients and micro services are becoming the stock-in-trade of the "slideware" in many vendor presentations. At any booth on the exhibition floor you would hear at least two of these technologies championed as the best solution for a financial institution. The message was clear: Legacy technologies, legacy applications and legacy networks are being put under the magnifying glass and, for the most part, found wanting.
It's been said that "any solution that makes it to production and deployment can be viewed as legacy the moment that transition occurs." But for FIs, perhaps there are baby steps to be taken in the transition.
Maybe hybrids have to play a role — and open architectures with seamless support between ATMs and the servers supporting them. And what about the enterprise or industrial IoT that is rapidly closing the gap between present and future?
"We are winning even more business away from legacy vendors of payments solutions with our move to provide OmniPayments on the basis of software-as-a-service from out of our own cloud," said OmniPayments Inc . Vice President of Client Services Jessica Nieves.
OmniPayments is following its recent success with FIs in the Western Hemisphere with an increased presence at industry events such as ATMIA US. We definitely can expect to see the company supporting even more ATMIA events in the future, Nieves told me.
"Simply put, there are few marketing efforts by HPE in support of NonStop that we can see, so it really is falling on the NonStop vendor community to champion NonStop," she said. "We need to broadcast this message to a much larger audience. Our OmniCloudX offering utilizes NonStop X systems, which is surprising to many we talk to and it's just the beginning!
Further Nieves said, offering payments solutions out of a cloud — with an alternative SaaS offering, support for thin clients, and business logic modules with open APIs that can plug directly into an OmniPayments service bus — addresses many of the needs of FIs.
At last year's ATMIA US conference, Kulik made it clear that when Citibank first began to its NextGen ATM network, "It was imperative that they integrate the design with Citi's banking technology infrastructure for mobile, online, internet, branches, etc., everywhere in the world."
In other words, Citi wanted a single global code base to efficiently accommodate diverse country and regulatory requirements, and key to this was a code base architected to support "micro services, enabled and aligned with continuous delivery and deployment."
Furthermore, Kulik said, "Citi's future technology will have a service-based architecture that is built on a decoupled, scalable and responsive application that runs in a cloud."
Think of deploying an enterprise service bus from IBM, Tibco, Oracle, etc., that accepts plug-ins of the many micro services Citi envisions. With clarity surprising in a bank, Citi sees a future with micro services as "reusable componentized services" that are bound to specific business capabilities [and that] allow for release by module, thereby reducing dependencies, shortening test cycles and enabling faster deployment.
"OmniPayments has enjoyed a strong working relationship with Citibank in Mexico for more than 20 years," OmniPayments Inc. CEO Yash Kapadia told me. "Citi operates in Mexico as Citibanamex and is the second largest bank in the country."
According to Yash, "Citibanamex has been an important participant in the process that has led to recent releases of OmniPayments, and what you see today with cloud, SaaS and thin clients reflects work we have done as a result of the input Citibanamex provided. One of the biggest attractions to providing OmniPayments on the basis of SaaS from out of our own cloud is that there's no need to invest in servers and storage or legacy solutions. You can operate your network of ATMs — NextGen or otherwise — directly out of our secure cloud and already we have three FIs doing exactly that today!"
The ATMIA US conference was an opportunity to hear firsthand about the plans of many FIs. It was also the place to see traditional as well as futuristic ATMs and hear about NextGen ATM networks.
But there was also a degree of synchronicity on display: As FIs push the requirements envelope, solutions vendors are only too happy to comply with product offerings.
This overlap was as encouraging as it was beneficial — and based on that observation, I can't wait to hear what is on the agenda for 2018!
/ Richard Buckle is the founder and CEO of Pyalla Technologies LLC. He has enjoyed a long association with the IT industry as a user, vendor, and more recently, as an industry commentator.