Why the ATM’s dispenser is key to satisfying Middle East and Africa’s demand for cash

By : Colin Gordon

May 18, 2015 12:30 PM

Most consumers rarely stop and think about how the cash physically gets from within the ATM itself through the note presenter slot, into their waiting hand and then most importantly their wallet or purse. However, while a consumer may not spend the 20-25 seconds of their ATM transaction thinking about how the cash gets from inside the ATM to them; the dispenser (or media dispense module) at the heart of an ATM is actually of fundamental importance for financial institutions in providing cash to consumers where and when they demand it.

Consumer expectations of financial institutions have never been higher. Cash continues to be the primary means of payment for at least 85% of global payments and this in turn is driving demand for fast, secure and convenient access to cash. Such is the demand for cash in growth regions such as Middle East Africa, that a bigger note bunch size in single transactions at the ATM is needed in line with the overall growth of the ATM markets, which are expected to see 232,000 ATMs by 2018 handling well over 10 billion cash withdrawals each year.


To meet these growing market demands, the dispenser within the ATM has to be capable of driving higher availability, improved performance, increased security and service efficiencies. In short, the core technology in the ATM is needed to help lower the costs for Financial Institutions to serve consumers effectively and efficiently. This is a particular challenge in Middle East Africa where the ability of ATMs to handle a mix of poor and high quality notes, while mitigating security risks are under ongoing scrutiny.

Any ATM dispenser therefore looking to meet the needs of consumers in 2015 and beyond must be able to handle the challenges such as mixed and sometimes poorer note quality & variance, a mix of polymer and paper notes as well as provide new security features.

To give some background, at a basic level, a dispenser in an ATM works by:

  1. Picking cash from the cassettes using a vacuum mechanism, transport belts and drive rollers.
  2. The cash is then then moved to a single note transport, where each note is carefully examined by two sensors.
  3. The sensors firstly assess for note thickness – ensuring that one note is picked a time. Then a width sensor ensures that notes are not worn or folded.
  4. A security check is then needed. Consumers can be reassured to know that a programmable note carriage in newer cash dispensers (such as those found in the NCR SelfServ 27 ) perform clean sweeps to check for devices placed by criminals such as cash trapping.
  5. All of this happens in less than 20 seconds and the cash is presented to the consumer!

All of this is done in the Middle East alongside a challenging service and operational landscape. Think of the number of environmental challenges for dispensers in an ATM, such as greater exposure to extreme weather - dust, sand, temperature fluctuations and installations in very humid and hot remote climates all of which impact the performance of the dispenser at the heart of the ATM being able to dispense cash.   It’s, therefore, important that from a service perspective an ATM is easy to maintain and where components in the ATM can be changed directly in the field. Some of the factors that improve this are having every unit item field replaceable units in quick and plentiful supply, or alternatively an ATM can also have state of health indicators for easy fault identification and resolution.

In summary, consumers nowadays are time-starved and demand access where and when they want. A robust and reliable media dispense module within an ATM ensures that a financial institution has an ATM with the availability to dispense cash 24/7/365. Consumer demand for fast and secure access to cash remains strong. With ATM use increasing and more cash in circulation – this is a clear sign that a robust media dispense module at the heart of an ATM is needed to meet the media handling capabilities of both of global banks and consumers all around over the world.

Learn more about NCR Financial Services Solutions at NCR.com

Colin Gordon

Financial Services SelfServ, Marketing Manager

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Colin Gordon is a Global ATM Marketing Manager based at NCR’s R&D Center in Dundee, Scotland. Colin is responsible for the marketing of NCR’s financial hardware portfolio with a specific focus on activities such as demand generation, sales enablement, market analysis and customer engagements for the ATM business.