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ATM Technology Branches Out in Europe, Asia

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Throughout Europe and Asia in particular, ATMs are being used to distribute an increasingly wide array of financial and non-financial products and services.

This is in sharp contrast to the United States, where most advanced ATMs offer the same set of banking-related features such as accepting a stack of checks at once or delivering smaller denominations.

"We have seen the great interest of retail banks throughout Europe to offer non-traditional banking services via ATM," says Enzo Bordoni, marketing communication director for Diebold EMEA.

In Italy, for example, some of the ATM maker's clients use the machines to accept donations to charity, pay fines and taxes, make Single Euro Payments Area (SEPA) payments, pay for premium television services, and top up mobile phone accounts and iTunes accounts.

The expansion of ATM-based services continues, as banks and partner-providers look for new ways to elicit revenue from these ubiquitous machines. In Indonesia, at least one airline, Garuda Indonesia, has begun allowing travelers to buy their plane tickets at the ATM. (The interbank teller network in Indonesia is a single provider that supports teller machines for more than 80 banks there including national, regional and Western banks like Citi and HSBC.) Similarly, Thai Airways has also started to sell its tickets via Bangkok Bank ATMs.

Ana Stewart, managing director of i-design in the U.K., which has worked on several ATM marketing campaigns, is seeing greatly expanded use of the teller machine as a key marketing channel for packaged-goods companies and quick-serve restaurants.

"The humble ATM is transforming into a powerful media and marketing channel for brands including eBay, Dove, Kellogg's and Cadbury's, who can target their customers with in-store promotions and news on product launches," she says. "The ATM is also a vehicle for sophisticated advertising with the likes of Wall's and Hellman's driving campaigns which are activated by external factors such as the weather or temperature."

Fast-food businesses like Pizza Hut and McDonald's are using channel-based proximity targeting so they can reach consumers on the high street within a certain distance of their restaurant locations, Stewart adds.

According to Ron Delnevo, executive director Europe for the ATM Industry Association, the sheer number of ATMs is increasing rapidly, especially outside the United States.

In the Asia-Pacific region, for example, the number of ATMs is expected to spike by 83% to about 2.2 million machines in 2020, compared to 1.2 million machines in 2013, according to data from RBR Global ATM Market. But in North America, ATM deployments will climb only 1% to an estimated 483,000 in 2020, compared to 477,900 ATMs last year, the research says.

ATMs in 2020 will dispense foreign currency; sell tickets to concerts, plays, films and sporting events; sell hunting licenses; offer coupons; sell lottery tickets and accept tax payments, Delnevo predicts.

"Most of these transactions are currently offered on ATMs in countries such as Italy, Spain and Portugal already," he says. "As bank branches close we will soon have less than half the branches in the U.K. than we had in 1990 ATMs will increasingly become the most important point of contact between banks and their customers. Even where there are still branches, those branches will be highly automated, with sophisticated ATMs central to that automation. Therefore, the more the ATMs can do for bank customers, the better."

Perhaps the biggest recent trend is the emergence of machines that offer the digital currency Bitcoin. Since last year, Bitcoin ATMs have popped up in Canada, Singapore, the Czech Republic, Finland, Malaysia, China, Japan, the United Kingdom, Poland, Spain, Romania, the Netherlands, Italy, Israel, Australia, and New Zealand, according to research from Milan-based Value Partners Management Consulting.

Many of these are not strictly ATMs. The original Lamassu machine, for example, was designed to sell Bitcoin but not enable cash withdrawals. Its rival Robocoin argues that its machines, which allow cash withdrawals, are full-featured enough to be considered bank branches but they do not allow access to mainstream bank accounts.

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