Automated teller machines may no longer be the one-trick pony of banking.

Since their inception, ATMs have been primarily seen as cash withdrawal devices. But in recent years, with the emergence of envelope-free deposit, the range of common uses for ATMs has expanded into a broader span of services like making deposits and buying stamps. However, integrating bank machines more closely with other channels-including the branch, call centers, online and mobile-may be the next step in further broadening use of ATMs.

"From our perspective we see merged channels being the thing that's going to happen pervasively... ATMs [used in conjunction] with mobile and online or call center," says Bob Tramontano, vp of marketing for ATM vendor NCR.

ATMs are a heavily used channel. Despite the increased usage of debit point of sale cashback, eighty-five percent of U.S. bank customers still use ATMs, and one in three uses one at least weekly, according to a January 2010 Forrester report, "How US Bank Customers Use ATMs."

Ed Kountz, senior analyst for Forrester, says Americans are researching financial products online, but buying through other channels, including potentially ATMs, due to a desire for more security and hand-holding from their bank.

To take advantage, some banks are integrating how ATMs are used by customers to investigate, apply for, and acquire products and services with other channels.

"We are asking ourselves how to bring ATMs to the next level, and integrate with other channels, leverage other channels," says Eric Perlmutter, ATM channel management executive for Bank of America, which boasts 18,000 ATMs nationwide (13,800 of which are full-function, taking deposits as well as dispensing cash). The bank's move to entirely envelope-free deposit-completed in December 2009-has helped expand consumers' view of the ATM, according to Perlmutter, who says 20 percent of the transactions at full-function machines are deposits and 60 percent are withdrawals. Seeing the image of deposited checks and cash on the machine and on the receipt has "built more awareness of the banking machines."

Tramontano says the lines of channel usage are blurring. For example, he says, a customer may take note of a new loan product at a branch, research it online, contact the call center to get their credit scored, receive online approval, and then submit their documents at an ATM or kiosk, or receive funds disbursed onto a card there.

"You would no longer have to go to a single channel to start and stop a transaction," he says.

Other approaches to integrating ATMs are playing to the ubiquity of mobile devices. In April 2009, MasterCard debuted an ATM-finding application, called ATM Hunter, for iPhone through the online Apple App Store. The free app allowed iPhone users to pinpoint more than 1 million ATMs across the globe (not just those of one specific bank), and is integrated with Google maps. It also allows users to filter ATMs, to find ones that don't have a surcharge, that have a drive-thru, are wheelchair-accessible or allow deposit-sharing. Similarly, ING of the Netherlands also released its own ATM-scouting application for Google Android handsets in Europe a year ago.

ATM executives at Wells Fargo hope consumers will come to see their ATMs as "concierges" as well as cash dispensers. In July, the San Francisco bank began piloting its "Make An Appointment" service at a handful of teller machines in Southern California as well as online. The service enables customers and potential customers to schedule an appointment online with a banker for the date, time and store location of their choice and then receive a confirmation email.

Alicia Moore, head of ATM banking for Wells Fargo, says this application typifies the way that the bank is positioning its ATM network-to help save time and personalize interactions for the customer, even in ways that may seems very basic and low-tech. "Cross-channel [interactions] could be sexy, but we need to make it relevant to the customer."

Moore says the industry has been "toying with advertising on ATMs" for more than a decade, in the interest of encouraging this kind of cross-channel utilization. And ultimately, what banks have learned is that "customers do pay attention when it's relevant to them."

"We're looking for ways to interact with customers to reinforce that relevancy," she says.

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