The continued importance of the ATM in the UK

Recently, there’s been a lot written in the UK press about the future of the ATM in the country. With reports that some ATMs in the nation’s widespread Link network of free-to-use ATMs may be under threat due to changes in the fees charged by the operator. There have even been some suggestions that this potentially marks the beginning of the end for the ATM.

Such a scenario seems extreme however. The chances of the ATM dying out in the UK are, for the foreseeable future, remote, as they still remain key for millions of people. Indeed, you only have to look at some of the concerned reactions to the prospect of losing access to the local ATM to see that the future of these devices remains positive.

ATMs’ place in the UK economy

Despite the increased adoption of alternative payment methods such as contactless, where the UK had been a world-leader in deploying ubiquitous payment capabilities for this technology, cash still remains a critical part of most people’s everyday lives.

Research from Payments UK, for instance, noted that while card usage is still growing in the UK, there were still 15.4 billion cash transactions in the UK in 2016, and naturally, this means there is still a need for ATMs.

Figures from RBR London, also reveal that consumers in the UK make over 2.7 billion withdrawals from ATMs every year, for a combined value of £188 billion. This equates to more than £500 million a day, or £360,000 a minute being placed into wallets and purses throughout the UK.

The average ATM in the UK handles more than 3,300 withdrawals every month, which is around 20 percent higher than the global average – more proof that even in today’s competitive payment environment, demand for cash remains strong.

What the future holds for ATMs in the UK

It should not be surprising that ATMs are still valued in the UK. After all, the country has a long history of embracing this technology and this year marked the 50th anniversary of the world’s first commercial ATM, which opened for business at a branch of Barclays in London in 1967. From those humble beginnings, their numbers have grown to more than 70,000 machines throughout the country today.

However, in a changing landscape, it is true that the ATM will have to continue evolving if it is to maintain its place at the heart of the UK’s finance ecosystem. In particular, ATMs in the coming years will have to offer much greater functionality if they are to stay relevant.

For example, one capability that will be increasingly important is Intelligent Deposit. At present, this is a feature that’s only available in around ten percent of ATMs in the UK, but as more banks start to look towards the ‘branch in a box’ concept to reduce costs and offer better self-service customer experiences, tools like Intelligent Deposit will be essential in ensuring people across the country have access to finance, no matter where they are.

Aside from delivering a more complete customer banking experience, the ATM’s role as a provider of cash should not be forgotten, as even as technologies such as contactless cards and mobile payment grow in importance, they are unlikely to replace cash altogether.

The convenience of cash is hard to replace. Payments UK’s chief economist Adrian Buckle noted: “People will always want to choose the payment methods that best suit them, and cash will remain a frequently-used payment method for the foreseeable future.”

Written by Colin Gordon

Colin Gordon

Colin Gordon is a Global ATM Marketing Manager based at NCR’s R&D Center in Dundee, Scotland. Colin is responsible for the marketing of NCR’s financial hardware portfolio with a specific focus on activities such as demand generation, sales enablement, market analysis and customer engagements for the ATM business.

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