FCTI - Blog

Retail ATM Innovation: When Push Comes to Shove

Posted by Robel Gugsa on Dec 12, 2018 6:03:00 AM

The ATM is a key touchpoint for financial services and cash access. But it is often one of the most neglected access points.

Banks and credit unions have been satisfied with allowing their machines to provide an added convenience to cardholders – and gain them added dividends on foreign card use. ATM operators and retailers have been happy to provide simple off-site cash access – and earn revenues from surcharge fees and interchange.


Without the demand for MORE, what motivation do ATM manufacturers have to innovate?

sleeping-cat-holidayThe ATM industry has been at rest.

Newton’s First Law of Motion states, “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.”

ADA? PCI/Triple DES? Windows migration? EMV? The industry has been poked and prodded…but not moved. In fact, the “place and earn” model has become so standard that cost expectations are practically set in stone with little to no wiggle room for even these upgrades and improvements. The ATM is not being viewed as a tool for innovation.

Except by the consumer.

Mobile users – now reaching around 98% penetration in the US – are increasingly reliant on convenience. But their expectations for that self-service experience are set by the device they hold in their hand. An innovative, up-to-date, user focused personal computer – a smart phone. And, let’s face it, most ATMs are far from “smart”. These mobile-focused ATM users want big screens and intuitive interactions. And they want them fast. REALLY FAST. And if it’s not fast, it better be personalized.

Fast means always on and reliable. Personalized means custom messages and interactions…plus security before, during and after the transaction.

Feeling this growing push from ATM users, some manufacturers are upping their game. We’ve seen a series of newer machines hit the market with sleeker appearance, large displays, and faster up-to-date hardware.

Some manufacturers have even recognized that, while a nice appearance can draw in users, it is the user interface and software that determine the end result of the experience. Is it intuitive? Is it fast? Is it personalized? Is it secure? And they are investing in creating the programs needed to meet these consumer expectations.

But many businesses are still holding onto their old machines, their old software, and their old outlook on the ATM. Right now, the industry is still at rest – despite the pokes, prods, and nudges.

While banks, credit unions, retailers, and operators will admit the ATM is a must-have resource – often begrudgingly - not enough financial institutions are realizing how valuable that resource is in reaching and interacting with mobile and remote banking cardholders.

While retailers and operators are seeing a slow trend toward surcharge-free, security, and high-tech, not enough of them are recognizing how an ATM is an experience that can represent brand and influence revenues beyond the surcharge.

The ATM industry is at rest. Where “at rest” means complacent. It means resistant. It means user friction. And it is dangerous.

You might not feel it, yet, but consumers ARE the unbalanced force working hard to give our industry the push it needs. We should take heed.

Because when push comes to shove, it’s usually off a cliff.

Commentary originally published in the ATM Marketplace "2018 ATM and Self-Service Software Trends" report available for download here.

Animals don't queue for ATMs. But Your Cardholders do.

Topics: retail ATMs, credit union ATMs, bank ATMs, ATM users, mobile banking

Written by Robel Gugsa

As CEO of FCTI, Mr. Gugsa has the overall responsibility for planning, leading and implementing FCTI’s long and short term strategic direction. As such, he oversees all company operations – encouraging an emphasis on customer relationships and technological development. Mr. Gugsa has extensive experience in transaction payment processing, ATM manufacturing, and building partnerships with major financial institutions. Prior to FCTI, he co-founded and was CTO at Select-A-Branch Network (SAB). He was instrumental in developing SAB’s intellectual property and patent. SAB was acquired by FCTI in 2013. Mr. Gugsa holds a MIS from Steven Institute of Technology and a BS from NYU Tandon School of Engineering.