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Gephardt: How the pandemic is jump-starting the evolution of the ATM

By Matt Gephardt, KSL TV | Posted - Sep. 10, 2020 at 9:27 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — ATM use dropped sharply at the start of the pandemic as many Americans stayed home and subsequently spent less cash on nights out on the town. And while they may be down, they’re far from out as ever-evolving technology is making ATMs more and more important in the strategies by financial institutions to keep us safe.

Mary Wisniewski, a banking analyst with Bankrate.com, said banking is changing fast. One innovation is we don’t even have to use our bank cards to access our cash.

“You can use your mobile phone to pre-stage transactions at the ATM, so you don’t have to use your debit card,” she said.

Sure, using your phone to bank has become mainstream in many ways, but Wisniewski said that use has been gaining momentum since COVID-19 struck.

Another innovation in biometrics allows you to get cash from the machine by using your face — not your hands.

“If you look to other countries like Spain, there’s a bank already piloting facial technology,” Wisniewski said. “So that’s how you’d be identified. You wouldn’t have to touch the machine at all.”

ATMs have been good for one very specific task: quick cash withdrawals. But if you want to open a new account, apply for a loan or make a big a deposit – that usually means stepping into a bank’s branch and meeting a human face-to-face.

Now, some banks are merging ATMs and humans into a video-based teller called an Interactive Teller Machine.

“There have been video tellers at some of the smaller banks and credit unions,” explained Wisniewski. “And you can interact with them at an ATM to do bigger tasks.”

Wisniewski said we should expect to start seeing standalone ATMs, where you can video conference with a teller. Some banks have been slowly going this way to save money, but with demand for in-person banking at an all-time low in these COVID-19 days, financial institutions have put interactive teller machines on the fast track.

Will these changes at the ATM stick, after coronavirus goes away?

“There’s a certain element of getting comfortable with new experiences and technology, but I think it should just be better and faster experience — or longer, I guess, if you’re having a conversation with video tellers — but I think it’s exciting,” Wisniewski said.

Matt Gephardt

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