Personal Finance
Super ATMs and kiosks
April 4, 2001: 9:12 a.m. ET

Behold the new ATM: cash checks, print statements, get stamps, phone cards
By Laura Bruce
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NEW YORK ( - In the 1930s, Diebold Inc., the maker of self-service banking systems and security devices, helped develop a way to shoot off tear gas in bank lobbies in case notorious robber John Dillinger and his gang paid a visit.

Diebold, which also had Al Capone's nemesis, Eliot Ness, as chairman of its board for seven years, has changed with the times. Today, the North Canton, Ohio, company is better known as one of the biggest ATM makers in the world.

ATMs are in the process of being reborn. The concept of the "super" ATM -- a multi-function machine that goes beyond the basic cash withdrawal or deposit -- has been around for quite a while but is just now being deployed to a noticeable extent.

A one-stop shop

Among other things, the new ATMs are capable of cashing checks, printing statements, copies of canceled checks and maps, and issuing money orders, postage stamps and phone cards. If the ATM is Web-enabled, you'll be able to make online bill payments.

And, you can bet they'll all be equipped with state-of-the-art, full-color monitors to bring you friendly reminders of your financial institution's other services. The new ATMs may also look more like kiosks in that they may have touch screens instead of keypads.

  The technology has finally caught up. An ATM is a lot more complicated than just dispensing $20 notes. It's been challenging to get the technology down to a reasonable cost.  
  Dan Sullivan
Bank of America
ATMs, traditionally, are quick cash dispensers. Kiosks -- stand-alone information machines -- often are found in public places such as malls and airports. They usually have an interactive touch screen and sometimes sell services such as insurance policies. The functions they're currently used for are more time-consuming than a fast cash transaction.

"The technology has finally caught up," said Dan Sullivan of Charlotte, N.C.-based Bank of America. "An ATM is a lot more complicated than just dispensing $20 notes. It's been challenging to get the technology down to a reasonable cost."

Not a small consideration when you're Bank of America with 14,000 cash machines.

Before shelling out for new machines, ATM deployers have to figure out what their customers want. If you just want to get $40 from your account, do you want to be in line behind someone who's checking his balances, printing a money order and buying stamps?

Purebreds or hybrids?

Ken Justice of Diebold says some institutions will keep the ATMs and kiosks separate, while others will combine them.

"Some banks want everything on one machine so their customer doesn't have to figure out which machine to go to. Other banks are more concerned about (long lines) so they want to separate the functions. From a technical standpoint, we don't care. We can package together or separately," Justice said.

Diebold has taken a look at Europe and found the same kind of division. According to Justice, Germans are very much into specific function terminals -- get cash from one machine, get a statement from another.

"They want it to be quick and less confusing to customers -- know exactly what to do when they go to that machine. In Spain they like the super ATM approach -- do everything possible on one device," he said.

  graphic NEW ATMS:  
  • cash checks
  • print statements, maps
  • issue money orders, stamps
    One company that's aggressively upgrading its ATM business isn't a bank at all; it's your local 7-Eleven. Spokeswoman Margaret Chabris says the Dallas-based company handles 100 million ATM transactions a year and $4 billion in money orders.

    In addition, she says, the company is one of the largest retailers of prepaid communications such as phone cards. 7-Eleven now is testing its -- virtual commerce -- kiosks.

    A company representative calls them an ATM on steroids. They're Web-enabled, integrated financial services kiosks combining all the functions of an ATM with limited Internet functions (it's not meant for surfing).

    In addition to getting cash and making deposits, you could do money orders, money transfers, check cashing, bill payment, get travel directions and maps and buy event tickets -- while sipping a Slurpee at your 7-Eleven.

    "In Austin we signed up 50,000 check-cashing clients," Chabris said. "That's proof of concept. People with and without bank accounts responded favorably. We thought we'd be targeting the under-banked or the un-banked, but we found that even those with bank accounts like the convenience."

    A wave of the future?

    You might call Franklin National the little bank that could. The Franklin, Tenn., bank has dived headfirst into the new banking technology.

    "One of the reasons is when I look out my window I look straight at a Bank of America," said Richard Herrington, president of Franklin Financial Corp., the holding company of Franklin National Bank.

    FNB introduced Internet banking last year. About 1,500 of the bank's 6,000 customers signed up the first year -- but there was a problem.

    "When someone came into the bank we could tell them about Internet banking, but we had to ask them to go home to sign up on their computer," Herrington said.

    That problem was solved when the bank ordered Web-enabled kiosks. Now, customers can log on to their own account in the bank and sign up for Internet banking. Herrington says the introduction of the kiosks has re-energized the Internet banking program, with 50-to-100 people signing up each week.

    David McCurrach, senior vice president of electronic banking at Franklin National, says the second reason they got the kiosks was self-service.

    "A customer can walk up to the teller and get an interim statement for a $3 charge, or they can log on to e-Teller and get it for free. They can request a copy of a check from a teller for a charge or get it from e-Teller for free," said McCurrach.

    That highlights a major reason banks are improving ATMs and adding kiosks -- they want to encourage customers to use online banking and other methods that don't involve tellers. Some strictly online banks will use kiosks and ATMs to gain a "real world" presence since they don't have a bricks-and-mortar facility.

    FNB's kiosks let customers look at canceled checks, check their investments, reorder checks, print maps -- everything they can do online, they can do at the kiosk. Currently, the services are free; except for online bill payment. The few kiosks FNB has are located in its banks. Future kiosks will be in malls and other 24-hour locations.

    Customers will find a mixed scene when it comes to fees for services at super ATMs.

    Firstar Bank, which is merging with Minneapolis-based U.S. Bancorp, upgraded its ATMs to super ATM status. In addition to all the usual functions, the machines print full statements and mini statements that list the last 10 transactions, enable customers to reorder checks, change a PIN and buy stamps and phone card minutes.

    The price of convenience

    Fees are charged for almost everything. For example, stamps cost 65 cents more per sheet than you'd pay at the post office, a full statement is $1.50 and a mini statement is 75 cents.

    Executive Vice President Robin Nenninger says customers aren't complaining about paying for the convenience.

    "We're offering services that make our lives more comfortable. I'm going on vacation and I might get money and some stamps and check my balance because I want to make sure some checks have cleared," said Nenninger.

    Nenninger says the bank opted for super ATMs rather than have a nearby kiosk.

    "It's important that customers perceive it as one-stop shopping. We don't want them watching Pocahontas or surfing the net; but I don't want side-by-side. You'll never get use on it. Build the brand, have one machine. A normal transaction takes anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, although it takes longer than 30 seconds to print a full statement," Nenninger said.

    But Bob Seitz of In-Seitz Banking Products in Rochester, N.Y., says his company often recommends the side-by-side approach with ATMs and kiosks.

    "ATMs and kiosks are used by people in such different ways. An ATM is used first to get our money and second -- a distant second -- is to make a deposit. The kiosk function is tied to the existing banking and bill paying. We recommend they work in pairs; they're complementary. A car and an airplane both do transportation, but it's better to be specific," Seitz said.

    Bank of America, which is testing a couple dozen ATMs as it tries to figure out what will work best, is trying to decide. Dan Sullivan says the sky's the limit when it comes to options, but says his bank will have to see what's important to customers.

    "A lot of the options will take too long, and you can't hold the customer up like that. We might have one machine that does both. It may be full function on one side and quicker transactions on the other," said Sullivan. graphic