Citicorp's Chicago bank has joined Cash Station, the Windy City's dominant automated teller machine and debit card point-of-sale switch.
The Chicago savings bank has become the latest of a number of Citicorp units that have joined regional shared ATM and POS networks, strategy the bank has spurned for its big New York retail bank.
Most of these network participations, including the Cash Station deal, have been driven by the bank's desire to get into the point-of-sale business, which the regional networks currently dominate, a citibank official said.
Business Called |Burgeoning'
"We want to be a part of the burgeoning point-of-sale business," said Richard Kenny, director of analytical planning at the $4.8 billion-asset Citibank in Chicago. "Each market tends to have a dominant POS provider, and in our area, Cash Station is it."
Mr. Kenny said Citi would withdraw from a smaller Illinois network, known as Money Network. Money Network does not have an active point-of-sale program, he said.
The Citibank deal brings about 190 more ATMs to Cash Station, boosting the network's total number of shared terminals to about 2,100.
Plans in New York Area
But beyond the implications in the Chicago market, the Cash Station agreement has resurrected a discussion by observers of what Citi's New York bank plans to do regarding point-of-sale.
Specuatioon has centered around whether Citibank will finally join NYCE, which is partially owned by money-center competitors Chemical Banking Corp. and Chase Manhattan Corp.
It has become clear that NYCE will be leading the way in the New York market with developing a debit card point-of-sale system.
Holding Back from NYCE
But experts now say that Citi's membership in NYCE will be contingent upon how the network evolves over the next six to 12 months - specifically, whether it can expand its geographic reach through acquisitions of smaller ATM systems.
"NYCE's POS program is doing pretty well, and [POS] is clearly a gap that Citi wants to fill for its cardholders," said Richard Westelman, a director at Dove & Associates, an electronic banking consultancy based in Boston.
"But given the banks that own NYCE, I just don't see Citi swallowing its pride and getting involved with the network before some things change significantly."