The Untapped Promise of the ATM's Capabilities

by Todd Nuttall 0

Did you see the story a few weeks ago about ATMs that dispense clean water? The story out of India detailed the installation of clean water dispensers attached to ATM-like machines where people desperate for clean water in a remote town in India can now get clean water for only one rupee.

The news report I read noted that three out of four countries in Asia and the Pacific are facing a serious shortage of potable water and a crisis looms unless improved water management is realized.
In a country where more than half the population, some 638 million Indians, don’t have access to commodes, this is an extraordinary step forward.

Were you surprised that the ATM could and would be used to deliver drinking water? I’m not.

The key proposition for water through ATM-like machines was that they could provide 24/7 access in more convenient locations than prior clean water sources. Isn’t this the precise reason that ATM’s were invented in the first place?

To me this is one more chapter in the story of the untapped promise of the ATM’s capabilities. We’re all seeing it. Every day our industry trades report compelling data that are the fuel for the fire of innovation.

Stories proliferate about this most nimble of delivery channels at the forefront of an evolution in banking. By now, who doesn’t know that ATMs now do everything from dispensing prepaid cards allowing loan and bill payments and even emailed transaction receipts?

Haven’t we all done a little daydreaming about where this could lead? In the near term, we are witnessing financial institutions being much more focused on how to automate formerly teller-based services.

Like me, I’m sure you read Wells Fargo Chairman and CEO John Stumpf’s comments regarding their strategic investment in smart ATMs. He pointed to the value of moving a variety of functions to the purview of the ATM as it continues its evolution as the simple, low cost multifunction delivery channel that remains a consumer favorite.

Clearly, underscoring the wisdom of that decision has been the revenue generation and cost-savings.

Wells Fargo’s direction is one that I expect will resonate. When I look at it from my corner of the convergent prepaid and ATM industries, financial institutions will become strong adopters of pushbutton prepaids and other consumer favored products because the inside branch will not be able to compete with third party providers.

But, where the future lies is only as limited as our vision. Products ranging from event tickets to transit passes will join ATM-dispensed open and multi-merchant closed loop cards and lottery tickets as a typical part of the menu consumers will see when they walk or drive up to their ATMs.

That isn’t hard to envision. Relatively speaking, it’s just around the corner. On this, we all seem to agree.

Ultimately, whether you’re talking millenials, the unbanked, the underbanked, or the shifting preferences of mainstream financial institution clients, the incentive is there because we have already learned that slow adoption is not going to make the cut with increasingly discerning consumers.

There’s an old saying: “The customer is always right.” There’s much to be gained by listening.

Todd Nuttall brings more than 20 years of experience in domestic and international business leadership, finance, payments systems, audit, and business consulting to his position as Chief Executive Officer, Better ATM Services. Visit the Better ATM Services’ Self Service and Convenience Strategy Session on PaymentsJournal.

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