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The dual role of the ATM and branch in the future of banking
With the latest ATM Future Trends report from ATM Marketplace indicating that consumers in the US and the UK attach more importance to having an ATM nearby than a branch, it could be asked if the ATM could one day replace the branch altogether.
However, a more likely scenario is one that combines these channels with newer, emerging technologies to deliver choice and value for the customer.
Branch still has a key role to play
However strong the case for ongoing development and expanding functionality in the ATM channel - alongside mobile or online banking - may be, it's important to remember that, for the foreseeable future, the branch still has a significant role to play in the retail banking industry.
As more and more consumers turn to digital banking or self-service to complete everyday tasks and transactions, the focus of branch banking will be on delivering face-to-face advice and support for big financial decisions, like buying a house or taking out a loan.
Rather than disappearing altogether, we can expect to see branches becoming smaller and smarter. Innovation and development in the self-service channel will give branch staff more freedom to focus on activities that can deliver genuine value for the business, such as building relationships with customers and strengthening brand loyalty.
The rising value of the ATM
As well as giving customers quick and easy access to cash - which remains a vital part of the payments ecosystem - modern ATMs can serve an increasingly diverse range of purposes. They can, among many other things, accept mixed-media deposits, facilitate overseas money transfers and provide video connections to remote tellers at any time of the day or night.
This valuable functionality is not going unnoticed among consumers, with nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of UK respondents to the ATM Future Trends survey placing more importance on having an ATM nearby.
The research also provided an insight into the possible future direction of ATM development, if financial institutions want to respond to what customers want. Seven in ten people in the US (70 percent) said cash withdrawal in multiple denominations is an important service that should be more widely available. Real-time transactions (39 percent), biometric authentication (34 percent) and check cashing at the ATM (32 percent) are also attracting a lot of interest from US customers.
Cash withdrawal in multiple denominations also topped the UK consumer survey, with 52 percent of respondents citing it as a valuable service, along with bill payment (34 percent), real-time transactions (32 percent) and check cashing at the ATM (32 percent).
Bill Nuti, NCR's Chairman and CEO, told the ATM Industry Association: "ATMs have become far more than machines that dispense cash. They are portals into a full array of technologies that let people bank anytime and anywhere. ATMs are now at the forefront of omni-channel technologies that are redefining the digital economy."
As consumer interactions change and financial institutions look to re-evaluate self-service delivery models, ATMs and branches playing a role alongside mobile, online and other digital banking methods, will likely be the scenario that plays out in the future. Consumers value choice, one example being the ability to pay via cash, digital payments or card. This will also be the case for many years when it comes to financial decisions. Self-service is convenient and familiar but the branch network represents the ability to have face-to-face interaction and that is something that should not be overlooked.