Fujitsu-ICL Systems Inc., after several years in relative obscurity, is moving to reassert itself in the U.S. automated teller machine market.

The subsidiary of the Japanese computer giant Fujitsu Ltd. has run a distant third in the domestic ATM market behind Interbold, which is a joint venture of IBM Corp. and Diebold Inc., and AT&T Global Information Solutions, the former NCR Corp.

The company was perceived as having grown too comfortable in the role of also-ran, according to some industry observers. Now it faces at least a minor crisis, as its market share has dipped below 10% and bankers have begun to question the company's commitment to the U.S. market.

Realizing that, if left unanswered, such questions could damage future growth opportunities, Fujitsu is aggressively moving to improve its product marketing and servicing in an effort to demonstrate to potential customers that it intends to be around in the coming years.

"We're out there opening up a lot of communications lines that we were remiss in keeping open, and we are trying to improve our reSponSiveness to our existing customers," said William C. Witte, director of financial systems for Fujitsu-ICL, which is based in San Diego.

Fighting for Share

Mr. Witte said Fujitsu's shortterm vision includes raising market share from the current 8% back above 10% by yearend. The growth goals are conservative and clearly attainable, he said.

Further, based on the first six months of this year, he forecast that Fujitsu may well recapture the market share it owned a few years ago. In 1990, the company had 13% of the domestic ATM market, according to statistics published by Bank Network News of Chicago.

By most accounts, Fujitsu faces a tough challenge. Observers said industry confidence has been undermined by a history of poor repair and servicing support for its products.

"They've had some problems with their servicing, and I don't think that they would even deny that," said Jo Anne Hernon, vice president at King Computer MFP Technology Services, which is a reseller of Fujitsu ATMs.

Upgrading Its Image

Ms. Herndon said Fujitsu is clearly making an effort to improve its reputation. The company has moved an ATM pans center from San Diego to a more centrally located site in Dallas. It has also installed a new manager to oversee its machine-servicing operations.

The changes have already paid off in some instances. Ms. Hem don said that one of her customers with a long list of servicing complaints was able to resolve its problems with Fujitsu a few months ago.

In addition to trying to upgrade servicing, Fujitsu is working to improve the marketing of its products.

The most recent evidence on the marketing side was its recent signing of four new resellers of its ATMs. The new arrangements - with companies in Iowa, Maine, Maryland, and New York - bring the total number of Fujitsu resellers to 25.

Focus on Smaller Players

Enlisting resellers is Fujitsu's way of making up for the fact that its sales force is substantially smaller than those of AT&T and Interbold.

"Since Fujitsu-ICL sells directly to the mid- and large-sized accounts, wc look to them Iresellers] to concentrate on smaller institutions," said Ron Omohundro, vice president and general manager of FujitsuICL's financial systems division.

The final component of Fujitsu's push to improve market share is product diversification. In addition to its standard line of full-function automated teller machines, Fujitsu now offers cash dispensers for the first time.

With many bankers eager to install ATMs at locations away from branches, Mr, Omohundro predicts that half of Fujitsu's 1994 sales will come from these new terminals with more limited functions.

Even with all the changes, Fujitsu executives do not expect to encroach much on the dominance that Interbold and AT&T have established in the domestic market.

'Sleeping Beast'

Yet those companies maintain a healthy respect for their competitor. Fujitsu Ltd. of Japan had $30.5 billion of revenues in the fiscal year that ended in March.

"We haven't seen much of them in the last few years, but we are not interested in rousing the sleeping beast," said one of Fujitsu's competitors, who requested anonymity.

"The parent's got incredibly deep pockets, and there's no question that they could make a stronger run in this market if they decided to."

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