Partnerships / Acquisitions

Managing ATM Fleets, With A Glance At The Future

Card-free cash access, voice commands and credit cards issued at the ATM? Not so far-fetched, as Cardtronics and TDECU executives told PYMNTS’ Karen Webster on the heels of their expanded relationship. Think of ATMs as convenient cash access, of course, but also capable of evolving into AI-powered brand enhancers and self-service hubs.

The ATM is moving far beyond the confines of simply doling out cash along with a receipt, and beyond an inevitable $3 surcharge on top of whatever fees one’s bank levies. The evolution is going to be a long one, however, and marked by shifts in both user behavior and expectations.

The business model may shift a bit, too, headed toward a managed services model.

In an announcement late last month, Cardtronics, the largest ATM owner and operator globally, said that TDECU – the largest credit union in Houston, Texas with more than 275,000 members – has chosen the former to operate its ATM fleet. The announcement builds on a partnership that is already in place.

Under the expanded agreement, Cardtronics will operate and manage 105 TDECU ATMs, including an off-premise fleet spanning locations in retail, education and government venues. In a bit of cross-pollination, TDECU members also have surcharge-free access to 55,000 ATMs globally in the Allpoint ATM network via a Cardtronics-owned Allpoint subsidiary.

The enhanced relationship will allow each firm to play to its own strengths, both companies’ executives said in separate interviews with PYMNTS’ Karen Webster. The runway is clear for ATMs – perhaps in the future powered by artificial intelligence (AI) – to become a multi-faceted self-service hub, offering enhanced services to complement giving customers the cash they need for a night out, they explained. It’s time to think of the machines as brand extenders that enhance the credit unions and banks they represent.

The surcharge-free network and management pact with TDECU has served as “kind of almost a stepping stone to a true managed services relationship,” Brian Bailey, Cardtronics’ managing director – North America, said. As that managed services relationship took shape, one overarching question was put in place for Cardtronics.

“How do we help TDECU focus on their digital priorities while still serving as the local expert on the physical ATM channel?” he asked.

According to Bailey and Steve Stevens, senior vice president of retail lending at TDECU, the time was right for the credit union to foster a relationship that would help it navigate the transformational waters without having to invest a lot of internal operational and capital resources.

Acting as the physical complement to digitally delivered services, ATMs can conceivably become self-service extensions of the branches they represent, Stevens explained, especially as the branches offer “more heavy lifting and advisory services” tied to wealth management or insurance. Technology is the perfect solution for quick and easy transactions over a broad range of choices, including card-free cash access at the ATM, as discussed by Stevens.

The enhanced relationship with Cardtronics allows TDECU to shift its attention to other offerings, like mobile banking replacing physical cards at the ATM. Stevens offered a hypothetical scenario in which a member could “prearrange” a cash withdrawal transaction.

“For instance, you could prearrange that you’re going to be at an ATM within the next 30 minutes, and you need to get three twenties out of it,” he theorized. “You do that on your phone and then when you walk up to the ATM, contactless authentication allows the money to be dispensed.”

In other possible scenarios, ATMs could reissue lost debit or credit cards, or members could decide to get new ones right at the machine.

Webster queried whether voice-enabled ATMs might be in the offing, and Stevens admitted that about a year and a half ago, he wasn’t a huge fan of the idea – or a big Siri user.

“But, now, I have CarPlay in my car and I use Siri,” he said. “I talk to the phone to call people and to set up destinations … I probably didn’t put a lot of value in talking [before], but I do now more than ever — and it’s because of the outside products that I am changing my mind.”

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