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09:05 AM
Paul Doocey
Paul Doocey
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A New Goal For ATMs

ATMs remain a popular and profitable delivery channel, people have more or less confined them to the niche of cash dispensers. The result: stagnant ATM growth.

As this is being written, the United States soccer team has just upset Portugal to post its first World Cup victory in the past eight years.

Elsewhere in the world, this would be cause for celebration and dancing in the streets. Here in the good ol' USA, the victory didn't even make the front page of most newspaper sports sections.

Indeed, soccer aficionados continue to ponder how the sport can be so wildly popular across the planet yet fail to catch on in the United States. To me, there is really no riddle as to way soccer popularity continues to wane here-the game has to compete against established sporting events, and has yet to produce a home-grown star that can attract a new fan base. Professional basketball was a third-rank domestic sport until Michael Jordan came along.

The banking world equivalent to the soccer conundrum may be the ATM machine. Here in the U.S., ATMs have become little more than an afterthought for most consumers. Although the devices remain a popular and profitable delivery channel, people have more or less confined them to the niche of cash dispensers. The result: stagnant ATM growth.

This is the exact opposite of what is happening elsewhere in the world, where ATM use and new installations continue to climb. Part of the reason is the introduction of ATM technology to new markets such as China and India. Equally important, however, is that people elsewhere in the world consider the ATM more than a cash-dispensing device, thanks to recent technological enhancements that allow the machines to do more. For example, in China, ATMs are equipped with bulk cash readers that electronically read cash denominations when deposited, and produce a teller-quality receipt.

Meanwhile, in Germany, ATMs are being enhanced to recycle money-i.e. electronically organize and account for money deposited into the machine so it can be "recycled" into the cash dispensing mechanism. End result: less downtime emptying the ATM and refilling it with currency.

But much like soccer, for these "second generation" ATMs to truly catch on in the U.S., there needs to be a compelling reason for consumers to re-examine the technology. Ken C. Justice, VP of product marketing and management for Diebold, believes this spark will come from deposit automation-essentially the marriage of check scanning and ATM technologies. With deposit automation, consumers can "scan" a check at an ATM. The transaction will be verified and instantly credited to the consumer's account. The attraction to the customer and bank is the same: there will no longer be the need to go to the teller to deposit checks, which will save untold amounts of time and money.

Time will tell if this new twist is enough to change the American consumer's mindset toward ATMs. My guess is that it will be easier than trying to convince a baseball fan that a corner kick is more exciting than a home run.

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