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How can ATMs help banks ‘branch out’ and optimize costs in an increasingly branchless world?

This article was originally published in the September 2022 issue of Polish banking magazine Miesięcznik Finansowy BANK. The English translation is available below and the Polish version has its own dedicated webpage. 

Introduction

Today, many banks are reconsidering their brick-and-mortar locations in a bid to reduce operating costs and open new doors in the digital era. However, as the designs of banknotes around the world testify, physical references like buildings and landmarks bring a deep sense of trust, security, and permanence to banking. So does cash, for that matter. While traditional branches will not disappear anytime soon, the landscape is certainly shifting.

A robust self-service network can provide financial institutions with new ways to optimize costs. Strategically deployed ATMs, providing more services than just cash withdrawals, can also help to drive better ‘remote’ services, enhanced bank visibility and brand-boosting activities! In this article, we’ll explain the value of in-house ATMs as key service channels, local touchpoints and dynamic marketing tools.

Why ATMs belong in a cost optimization strategy

Imagine if a football team facing cutbacks decided to get rid of its top player and his substitute right before a major tournament. How well-equipped would that team be to outperform the competition and win over the crowd? The decision would cut costs, but it could end up costing them the game – compromising their performance and reputation in the process. This kind of approach is unlikely to bring any success on the field. So, why do some banks feel pressured to ‘optimize costs’ by closing branches and dialling down their ATMs at the same time?

Put simply, ATMs are indispensable tools for banks that are looking to reduce costs and boost efficiency. Here are three factors to consider when reflecting on ATMs and cost-optimization:

1.      In-house ATMs empower banks with more opportunities

ATM networks that are managed by third parties like outsourcers or IADs often act as a ‘melting pot’ with a uniform experience that limits opportunities for individual banks to differentiate themselves. This uniformity can leave banks at a competitive disadvantage in the marketplace, since there is nothing in the ATM customer experience that promotes their specific offering. By choosing in-house ATMs, banks can leverage this channel for maximum control and effectiveness. They can also use proprietary ATMs to complement other banking channels (such as branches, mobile apps, and online resources) – creating a seamless journey. 

2.      ATMs can supplement reduced branch networks

With ATMs, it is possible for a bank to decrease the number of branches in its network without losing a physical presence anywhere. Interestingly, ATMs can also make it more cost-efficient for banks to expand into new territories – providing services for existing customers in local communities and attracting a wider pool of people in the process. Instead of simply ‘disappearing’, banks can use ATMs to maintain strong roots in neighborhoods, empowering everyday customers with self-service banking tasks that are available on a 24/7 basis.

3.      Diverse ATM fleets can be cost-effective

With a specialized solution, banks can successfully run ATM networks that feature multiple models and manufacturers without spending time and money duplicating the IT resources needed to run such networks. KAL’s Kalignite Suite equips banks of all sizes with ‘multivendor’ ATM software that is compatible with machines from over 40 different manufacturers – enhancing cost efficiency and time management.

This strategy is ideal because it:

  • Leads to improved control and visibility
  • Drastically reduces operating costs
  • Accelerates software upgrades
  • Promotes increased ATM functionality
  • Releases banks from vendor-specific software limitations
  • Provides a superior customer experience

Getting the balance right

Special care is required to make sure that customer experiences are not compromised in the migration from physical branches to machines. To create a cost optimization strategy that’s both resilient and rewarding, banks must strike the right balance between face-to-face services and unmanned services. It is here that the modern ATM shines brightest.

Over the years, the system has evolved from a straightforward ‘cash machine’ to an innovative ‘bank in a box’ - with the capacity to deliver services that were once only available in branches. Throughout the remainder of this article, we’ll outline how ATMs can help banks ‘branch out’ in an increasingly branchless world.

Maximizing ‘remote’ banking services with ATMs

When the ATM made its first public appearance in the 1960s, customers were given a revolutionary opportunity. They could use a self-service machine to withdraw cash at their own convenience (instead of relying on a clerk in a physical branch). Today, ATMs remain synonymous with withdrawals and play an essential role in public access to cash. However, it pays to remember that these machines can do much more than dispense cash.

With advanced functionality, strategic ATMs integrate with web services to support utility bills, tax payments, bank loans and more! They can also be used to establish secure contact with bank personnel via remote teller assist – helping customers perform tasks that would otherwise require in-person assistance.

Maximizing remote banking services should involve harmonizing ATMs with digital banking channels. This can be accomplished through pre-staged transactions via mobile phone – which 39% of the banks in our 2021 ATM Software Trends survey have included in their future plans.

When it comes to driving ATMs and delivering innovative capability, KAL’s Kalignite Terminal Handler (KTH) is a highly scalable option that enables banks to support an extensive range of transaction types. It’s a ‘multi-protocol’ solution that seamlessly connects with back-office systems, ATMs and other self-service machines.

Creating a tangible bank presence at street level via ATMs

An ATM may not have a formal business address, but it does have an important place in society. Amidst branch closures, banks need practical ways to be ‘there’ for customers in the immediate physical sense – whether they are in urban or remote areas.

Maintaining a tangible bank presence via ATMs comes with numerous advantages:

  1. Banks utilize physical signage to boost overall brand visibility and awareness
  2. Customers access bank services outside of traditional branch opening hours
  3. Banks provide reliable services for customers in convenient times and emergencies
  4. ATMs are powerful marketing tools that promote rapid customer interactions and feedback
  5. Banks gain more opportunities to encounter and acquire new customers
  6. Customers are less likely to feel abandoned if their local branch closes
  7. Banks can create new revenue streams with ‘off-us’ transactions

All in all, ATMs are reassuring touchstones that provide financial services for customers in all sorts of circumstances. However, ATMs must be available in order to be useful – meaning the machines should be powered up and running correctly. Paired with Kalignite Terminal Controller (KTC), KTH provides full visibility to promote the kind of peak availability and performance that makes bank ATMs dependable.

Leveraging ATMs as dynamic marketing tools

While the old saying ‘out of sight, out of mind’ is a good strategy for forgetting something unpleasant, it also serves as a warning when it comes to marketing. To stay front-of-mind in a competitive market, banks must continually present themselves in ways that are engaging and relevant. While physical bank branches have large signs and window displays, ATMs have the unique capacity to deliver one-to-one messages that target individual users.

With KAL’s Advanced ATM Application (K3A), banks can use the Marketing Campaign Creator to build, deploy and update rapid, network-wide marketing content. KTC provides best in class support for managing marketing campaigns. Some banks even use ATMs as a dynamic testing ground for refining campaign ideas before they are rolled out on a broader basis.

Conclusion

Many banks are on a mission to optimize their costs. Strategic in-house ATM networks can support this goal by supplementing branch closures, complementing manned services and delivering valuable customer experiences along the way. Here at KAL, we understand that flexibility and connectivity are key for banks when developing robust ATM networks.

To find out more about our software products and managed services, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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