What is there left to say about ATMs? Like a fine wine, they've gotten better with age; evidenced not only by their expansive functionality but their ubiquitous availability, with a footprint totaling north of 400,000 in the U.S. alone – the equivalent of 173 ATMs for every 100,000 people – and over 3.5 million worldwide, according to estimates from the ATM Industry Association.
More than 50 years since their inception, ATMs' core function remains the same: dispensing and accepting physical currency. Each and every ATM has this capability, with nearly 60 percent of today's crop doing so in multiple denominations, according to ATM Marketplace. After all, Americans don't have static cash needs, so why should ATMs only carry twenties? It therefore makes sense for branches and credit unions to invest in ATMs with this fairly straightforward capability, given the fact that 80 percent of banking customers prefer to use ATMs over all other banking channels for accessing cash, according to a separate ATM Marketplace study.
That said, this small feature – the ability to accept and dispense multiple currencies – belies a critical truth about the technology: ATM functionality serves as a reflection of consumer preferences and hardware innovations. Therefore, FIs looking to evolve along with consumers must pay close attention to the future of ATM capabilities.
The next step in ATM evolution: Interactive Teller Machines
There is no argument that ATMs have come a long way since their debut. Continuous advancements have been, for the most part, a response to accelerated demands for customer convenience and speed in financial services. And one can only imagine what the ATMs of tomorrow will be like, given what's possible today.
Well, the future is now. Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) are helping FIs to "future-proof" their operations to stay in lockstep with – or one step ahead of – customers' cash and financial services "trendencies." ITMs are equipped with cutting edge hardware, supporting bill payment, person-to-person transactions, video interactions, bulk note deposit and mobile and cash recycler capabilities, making them a virtual all-in-one machine, designed to be truly ahead of the technology curve.
"Over 40% of customers say they're unlikely to go to ATMs again if they encounter service disruptions."
Technologically innovative though they are, the dependability and durability of ITMs is one of their most desirable character traits. ATMs tend to vary considerably in terms of what they're able to do and how quickly they do them. What's more, they can be prone to service disruptions due to overuse and poor maintenance. That's a problem for customers, who rightly expect automated teller machines to be ready to use at all times. When they're not, 41 percent of adults say that they're unlikely to go to them again in the future, according to polling by ATMIA. ITMs are custom-made for high usage and come through in the clutch when customers need them the most.
Customizable functionality when you need it
So let's get down to brass tacks: If ITMs are so darn great, why would an FI trifle with ATMs? Simple: cost.
It's easy to see something shiny and start picturing where you'll install it in your branch. But with FIs struggling to prioritize service with increasingly lean budgets, an ITM is a significant investment. This, of course, may lead FIs to stick with "same-old, same-old" ATM technology.
However, this ignores one of the key features of the most progressive ITMs: the ability to enable functionality incrementally. Because some ITMs are fully customizable, FIs can equip them on an as-needed basis; making them they're as straightforward, or as leading-edge, as they want. This can minimize up-front investment while ensuring that, when time – and budget – permits, FIs can enable functionality with the flip of a switch rather than buying a whole new machine.
Convenience is king
If asked twenty years ago, most of us would not have been able to envision the future of the phone – yet here we are. According to a Pew Research Center survey, the vast majority of Americans own a smartphone today, a technology that has truly revolutionized modern-day convenience – with just about anything under the sun available at the touch of a button.
ITMs are kind of like the smartphones of convenience banking, making incredible strides in the financial world. Aside from the traditional and increasingly popular transaction functionalities, ITMs represent out of the box technology – even adaptable to dispense lottery ticket purchases. And over 60 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds said that they would use this feature were it available, according to the aforementioned ATMIA survey.
In summary, there's no denying that Americans still use ATMs for cash dispensing purposes above all else. But there's also no question that consumers are constantly on the lookout for what's next and are open to broadening their engagements with available technologies. This explains why 56 percent of banking facilities believe ATMs will only increase in their importance over time, particularly in terms of their multiplicity of usages.
BranchServ can help you put your best branch forward by providing your customers with the advanced ATMs and ITMs that can be customized according to your needs. With next-generation ATM hardware support, we can add the functionalities that your customers demand – whether all at once or step by step. In short, we can future-proof your ATM fleet so you always have an answer to transaction trends.
Contact us to learn more.