ATMS AND THE EVOLUTION OF THE BANK BRANCH

Mark Aldred, head of International sales, Auriga 

The ATM is the original piece of FinTech – it revolutionised the way we access banking services and it’s a fixture on every high street in the country. On Tuesday, the ATM turns 50 – but by no means is the ATM on its way out. It continues to evolve, adapt to new trends and customers’ demands and can present banks with a way to revolutionise their customer experience.
Newspapers have been full of speculation that the bank branch is dead but this isn’t correct. What’s happening is an evolution, much like with the ATM, driven by changes in customer behaviours, but with British consumers still valuing access to physical bank branches

there is a need for a half way house between under-used branches and closed branches. The ATM could be set to play a pivotal role in the future of the British bank branch.

A hybrid approach 

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We all know that banks are having to make tough calls about their branch networks. A hybrid strategy is starting to emerge – bank branches with a smaller physical presence, but more powerful technology to take them into the future. There may be fewer of them, and they will be distinct from the branch we recognise today, but that doesn’t mean the customer experience will be hampered, and if banks take the correct technological approach it could be drastically improved.

Banks must rethink and reposition branches.They are an important cornerstone of sales and customer advice, central to their relationships with customers.  Studies clearly show that the branch channel remains very important to the public (62% of British adults prefer face-to-face service in comparison to internet banking on 28%).

This hybrid approach to bank branches must be a positive benefit to relationships with customers, not a dehumanized “robo-bank” – and staff are central to this, they must be more than glorified receptionists.

Self-service at the heart 

So, what might this look like? The hybrid approach we’re now seeing must be powered by self-service technology like ATMs.

ATMs can transform dull bank branches into highly-automated environments, where customer service is the priority and customers not only have quick access to services, but they can get straight to the services they want. These new digital branches also have benefits for banks, which can access more information about their customers and offer new services to the right customers at the right time.

There will also be increased connections between staff and customers. Imagine that when your customer accesses a machine in branch,staff are immediately alerted via their tablet about any specific assistance or intervention the customer may need as well as new products and services they may be interested in.

However, customers should never be taken for granted and the bank should miss no opportunity to interact with them in branch.  The client should be at the centre of the branch to guarantee a consistent but personal customer experience. Everything must be done by the bank to guarantee a 24/7 service,consistent user experience, that is continuous, coherent, secure, personalized and accurate across all the distribution channels.

Don’t let your technology hold you back

Of course, all of this poses technological and marketing challenges for banks – can your self-service machines keep up to date with service demands? Is your solution scalable enough to adapt to the new environment? Which software and hardware will you deploy to make sure that your staff in the branch are empowered to help customers?

The challenge for banks is to achieve these steps despite the constraints of sometimes outmoded legacy technologies. There are countless examples outside of UK where the right software could rejuvenate existing ATMs. That’s one of the reasons we started in this industry – we began in the Age of the Internet and challenging the internet banking market to be better than ever before and it was logical for us that the ATM could benefit from the same cloud based approach – it reduces the total cost of ownership, improves time to market and eases the development of new services.

What is needed is a mind-set change from the current position of offering very limited services and reducing operating cost as the single most important focus, to a more optimistic outlook of expanding revenue-generating consumer services with operating costs being only one management metric and then investment in the technology to make this a reality.

The ATM is on the brink of some very exciting development as a central component of the new bank branch – with technology like artificial intelligence, data analytics and chatbots poised to bring an even better branch experience– but without the right infrastructure in place banks, branches and their customers could risk missing out.

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