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Why the ATM is the original fintech – and still one of the best

Monavate Insights

The ATM may be the grandfather of fintech, but it has the record and relevance to see off younger pretenders for some years to come…

A blue plaque marks a key moment in fintech history. It’s on the wall of the Barclays Bank in Enfield, UK. And it commemorates the installation of the first ATM on 27 June 1967.

If the definition of fintech is using technology to make financial services more efficient, then the ATM met the brief. It’s still doing so nearly 54 years later.

What’s made the ATM such a fintech success story? And what does the future hold?


Back to the future

The ATM is of its time and it’s also of our time. There’s a back-to-the-future quality about it, which explains its popularity and ongoing relevance.

Bank opening hours are no easier for working people today than they were in the 1960s. The creator of the ATM, John Shepherd-Barron, allegedly came up with the idea when he arrived at his bank too late to withdraw money.

‘Self-service’ and ‘automation’ were watch words in the 60s. If anything, the Covid-related hygiene and social distancing concerns of today have boosted self-service. Contactless or contact-free kiosks, pay-in-aisle and other solutions are booming.

1960s’ attitudes to science and technology still apply. Harold Wilson, future British prime minister, captured the mood in 1963 when he spoke of “the white heat of technology”. Yet the idea that scientific progress unlocks economic and social advancement still holds sway today.


A fintech built on durable values

The ATM is an enduring fintech success because its core proposition is still valid. 24/7 access to cash and an out-of-hours relationship with your bank or financial services provider is what ATMs offer. Yet it’s not all they offer…

Customers can now deposit cash and cheques at ATMs, pay bills, top-up mobile phones, donate to charity and much more. As ATM functionality has evolved, so has its technology.

The number of ATMs providing cardless withdrawals rose by a quarter in 2019, according to RBR research. And more and more ATMs are now equipped with contactless, QR code or biometric readers.

At the same time, the world and retail banking in particular has evolved. The internet has enabled 24-hour banking via laptops and mobile devices, but also bank branch closures.

Access to cash and banking services remain core needs. Various ideas are being explored to deliver this, including community banking hubs, pop-ups and co-locating banks.

New partnerships, business models and ways to engage customers will be necessary. And some self-service and automation required, probably via ATMs.

The ATM may be a fintech in its sixth decade, but it’s fit for the future. Rather than being feature-locked, it’s built on durable values of security, choice, convenience and ease of use.

While some things change, others stay the same. The ATM does both smartly, guaranteeing its longevity for many years to come.


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If you’re a financial institution or independent ATM deployer, contact us today to find out more about ATM BIN sponsorship and the Monavate difference.