ATM, as you likely know, is an acronym for automated teller machine.
It’s also shorthand for, perhaps, a simple function – colloquially known in financial services as “cash and dash,” an ancillary, physical part of the brick-and-mortar bank branch.
The machines are, of course, crucial for getting paper money in hand when the bank is closed.
But, as is the case with so much in banking, technology can make the ATM a potent tool for customer engagement – boosting ROI, too – if financial institutions leverage a holistic approach with the machines themselves, with a focus on self-service use cases.
In an interview with Karen Webster, Norbert Knievel, head of banking thought leadership at Diebold Nixdorf, said FIs would do well to reconsider the role of the ATM in an age where cash usage endures even with the continued inroads made with digital commerce.
Start with the prior statement that hard currency – the kind that sits in banks, backed by central banking systems and universally accepted – is not going anywhere, and the stage is set for a continued reinvention of the ATM.
“We should not forget why we have ATMs in the first place: to access cash," said Knievel. “One could say ATMs as physical touchpoints are mission-critical in a bank’s strategy. They are the ‘face’ of the FI's brand and provide new opportunities to reduce costs and increase revenue. But as financial services continue to evolve, the ATM channel must be embedded in the bank’s digital strategy to facilitate seamless journeys."
That multi-faceted strategy embraces services that are necessary not only for individual consumers but also for small and medium businesses (SMB) that operate in cash-intense verticals, he told Webster.
At the individual level, ATMs have been serving consumers for decades – more than 50 years, in fact.
And increasingly, the machines have moved beyond simply spitting out bills toward a range of financial needs at the point of cash dispensation.
Many consumers may be familiar with the emergence of apps that foster the ability to deposit checks by snapping pictures on a mobile device, or even the ability to buy stamps or conduct cardless transactions.
It’s a shift, noted Knievel, from the traditional mindsets that had dominated ATMs – and the FIs putting them on-site – for decades.
“In so many minds of financial institutions, it’s been the case that ATMs play a role within the branch, to optimize the processes there … but it's also something that helps them introduce the brand into a new location or represent the brand in areas where a branch has been closed,” he pointed out.
The expanded service offerings are necessary for FIs catering to who Knievel termed digital-native consumers, who expect to receive the same type of experience they encounter through digital banking interactions via mobile devices.
“The ATM becomes an entry point for other services,” he said, “and sometimes an entry point to the digital world.”
Thus, the FI wishing to leverage ATM utilization must deliver a sense of personalization and efficiency. Knievel said many firms have introduced wireless connectivity and use APIs to enable a sort of omnichannel experience, where transactions can be prepared by the consumer on a mobile device and cash can be withdrawn at the ATM in 10 seconds or even less by just tapping the phone.
The FIs are also using the ATM as a point of interaction at which to offer promotions or information about loans and mortgages, Knievel said, in an effort to drive cross-channel engagement and sticky customer relationships.
That’s especially true when consumers use a branch not tied to their primary FIs, opening up new opportunities for the bank that is being used to forge new relationships.
“They can get a return on investment by enhancing additional functionality like direct marketing and rethinking the business model,” Knievel noted.
Many of the same principles of boosting ROI of the ATM apply to corporate customers of the bank, said Knievel. Banks can use the machines to offer a range of cash-handling services that previously had not been on offer.
Many smaller firms such as restaurants, bakeries or florists transact mainly in cash, Knievel pointed out. And their hours may not easily dovetail with the 9-to-5 workday. Planning trips to the bank to deposit significant sums of money (and managing cash flow from those trips) can take away from day-to-day management of operations.
“The needs of the SMB, as a banking segment, are still underestimated,” Knievel said, adding that banks can offer real, value-added services by helping them optimize cash processes.
At the time, for example, companies can leverage an omnichannel infrastructure, allowing SMBs to prestage a deposit of their daily cash intake via online banking. They or a designed individual (runner) receive a one-time code (e.g. barcode) and can come to the ATM to credit sums directly to accounts.
There’s an added advantage in serving the individual and the SMB with equal digital aplomb, said Knievel.
With the automation of cash processes, bank employees no longer have to do repetitive cash-handling tasks and have more time to consult customers. Knievel additionally stated, “Today, we focus so much on the consumer, and on improving their experience through data. Bank staff needs the same context when engaging with consumers' assisted self-services via tablet or video solution linked to the ATM.”
By keeping the various journeys and priorities of consumers, corporate customers and staff in mind, Knievel noted, banks can move the ATM from being a “cost of doing business to one that offers strategic return.”