Banks are showing increasing interest in pooling and sharing ATMs. It’s one way for them to continue offering cash services over a wide area despite growing cost pressures.
The underlying trends driving this thinking are not new and, if anything, have been exacerbated by the Covid crisis.
Shopping and payment go digital
We know from personal experience that online shopping has risen during the pandemic. And that hygiene concerns around cash handling have boosted contactless card and smartphone payments. This is contributing to the decline in cash usage generally.
The figures bear this out. McKinsey found that online deliveries increased by ten times in eight weeks. And around 60% of respondents to a Mastercard survey said they were making more contactless payments since the Coronavirus outbreak than before.
Bank closures and social restrictions make cash access harder
Around 10,000 bank branches were closed across the EU last year with the loss of at least two ATMs per branch. The steady decline in branches since the 2008 financial crisis – numbers are down by around one-third, or 75,000 — makes it harder to access cash.
Social restrictions during the pandemic have heightened this. Lockdowns meant that ATMs in shopping centres, airports, pubs and cinemas were either inaccessible or switched off. ATMs next to one another were closed to help with social distancing.
Cash demand: the pandemic paradox
Our relationship with cash during the pandemic has been somewhat confusing. People are visiting ATMs less often, yet the amount withdrawn at each time has increased. In the UK, average cash withdrawals are up from around £65 in April 2020 to £85 in 2021, says ATM network LINK.
In times of uncertainty, it seems that people like cash. At least, they like to hold on to it. That’s the pandemic paradox. Despite the decline in cash usage for daily purchases, cash demand has never been higher.
The European Central Bank reports that the value of euro banknotes in circulation rose from €1.28 trillion in February 2020 to €1.43 trillion in February 2021. That’s up €156 billion, the biggest growth since the financial crisis.
It’s a similar story in the UK. Demand for banknotes has increased continuously over the past two decades, despite the use of cash halving since 2010, says the National Audit Office.
Naturally, cash attitudes and usage differ between countries and social groups. Banks are keen to continue offering cash services to customers. Governments are keen to guarantee cash access for all communities. Hence the interest in ATM pooling and other cost sharing mechanisms.
How to increase ATM profitability
Full ATM pooling involves deployers relinquishing ownership of their ATMs to a single deployer that operates a shared fleet. Such arrangements are well-established in Finland and Sweden, underway in Belgium and the Netherlands, and being considered in Australia, Indonesia and Japan, reports research firm RBR.
Even in markets without formal ATM pooling arrangements, sharing ATMs through multibank networks is growing. Bilateral or multilateral agreements guaranteeing fee-free access to customers at other banks’ ATMs are also popular, if not new. This serves as a mid-position for banks wanting to share costs and processes, even if they’re not ready to relinquish ATM ownership to a pooled fleet. Such arrangements are in place in Portugal and Switzerland, among other markets.
Those able to maximise ATM estate profitability stand to do well in this ‘less cash’ era. Cutting costs, scheme-related admin and manual processes is key. Which is why Monavate exists.
If you manage an ATM estate or are looking to start, speak to Adam Stace about Monavate’s ATM offering on 01223 626 584 or email firstname.lastname@example.org