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ATMs are now 'virtual tellers'

South African banks have been installing more innovative cash-accepting automated teller machines (ATMs), a move that is changing both the role of the teller inside the branch and the way banks are accessed by clients.
ATMs are now 'virtual tellers'In 2008, in a first to market initiative in SA, First National Bank started installing advanced ATMs, known as ADTs that scan cash and cheque deposits and allows for the cash to be credited to the holder's account immediately.

More South African banks are installing this technology, extending banking services beyond branch operating hours and giving tellers a chance to focus on aspects of banking other than accepting deposits and dispensing cash.

"The ADTs, have been a huge success for us and we will continue roll them out according to our needs," said FNB's chief executive Michael Jordaan.

"It has huge benefit to the client as they get a real-time benefit and business gets 24/7 banking," he said. "It does take volumes away from the teller, but provides us with a great opportunity to re-skill and develop more sales and service staff, which is where our strategic focus is. We are moving our branches to a sales and service environment as opposed to a transactional environment."

Jordaan says some FNB branches, known as DotFNBs, are completely cashless.

FNB says to date it has installed 977 of these advanced ATMs, an increase of 42% in the past 12 months. The volumes deposited in these advanced machines often match the deposits at branches located at the same site as the advanced ATMs.

Standard Bank

Standard Bank, which has been quietly transforming its core banking system to a more efficient and innovative one, has about 600 ATMs that allow for deposits to reflect immediately. The plan is to install a further 500.

"We decided to go this route for various reasons. Chief among them was improving customer convenience by enabling customers to make deposits at any time and obtain real-time value for the deposit," says Itumeleng Monale, head of channel design and development at Standard Bank SA.

"Another reason was to address the high costs associated with running and maintaining branch infrastructure as a channel for deposits, which subsequently leads to high transaction fees for customers," she says.

Monale says the first devices were installed in January last year and the total amount of cash deposited into these machines over the period is more than R3bn.

She says Standard Bank's intention is to use staff-enabled channels such as branches for more value-adding sales and service interactions with customers.

Banking priorities changing

Arrie Rautenbach, Absa's head of retail markets, says that to date Absa has installed more than 1,000 cash-accepting terminals and has committed about R500m to upgrade and increase its ATM infrastructure.

"The priorities for banking customers have changed in recent years," says Rautenbach. "As with Internet and cellphone banking, banking activities no longer need to work office hours."

Both Absa and Standard Bank are still working on an optimal functionality that allows for the cash deposited to be recycled for cash withdrawals in an effort to reduce costs associated with manually filling the ATMs with cash.

Capitec introduced its cash and cheque deposit machines last year. They also allow cash to be recycled. Bank chief executive Riaan Stassen says the plan is to install a further 100 machines soon.

"The main advantage of these note recyclers is that people who deposit cash into their accounts can do the deposit at a lower cost than at a branch counter," Capitec said last week.

"Second, if someone withdraws cash from the same machine they get notes that someone else deposited. This means that the ATM needs less cash from the cash-in-transit companies, translating into lower costs, which help keep bank fees down Stassen said.


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