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Phil Britt
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Automated Teller Machines for the 21st Century

Wells Fargo is among the first banks to upgrade ATM operating technology.

Windows to the Future

Wells Fargo began planning its move to Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) Windows and browser-based machines, Velline relates, and away from the IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) OS/2 platform that remains the core technology for most of today's ATMs. Though IBM no longer supports OS/2, and the platform is not compatible with browsers or current versions of Windows, TowerGroup (Needham, Mass.) predicts that only 30 percent of the world's ATMs will be running Windows by 2006.

To support Wells Fargo's self-service strategy, however, the additional functionality offered by Windows was key. Velline explains that Wells Fargo wanted customers to get consistent, high-quality service and functionality across its ATM fleet, a mix of machines from Diebold (North Canton, Ohio), NCR (Dayton, Ohio) and Wincor Nixdorf (Paderborn, Germany).

According to Velline, Wells Fargo is trying to stay ahead of the curve on emerging ATM technologies so that the bank, rather than regulators or ATM networks, can dictate the pace of adoption. In addition to enhanced customer service, he says, the Windows-based platform also makes it easier for Wells Fargo to make future systems upgrades, such as adding new security protocols, languages and the abilities to accept envelope-free deposits and provide users with check images and receipts for cash.

Wells Fargo currently is testing envelope-free deposit capabilities but has not set a target date to roll out the function, Velline notes. Once the bank is satisfied with the pilot, however, it will add imaging to its ATMs, he says.

Image-capable ATMs are not new, but since ATMs have been underutilized as a deposit channel, earlier efforts to promote imaging technology met with little success. But that may change, suggests Mercator's Sloane, following the adoption of Check 21. ATMs, he says, offer banks an opportunity to further leverage imaging technology and streamline check processing operations.

The challenge, however, is that ATM and branch systems tend to operate on separate networks, with separate technologies for each, Sloane points out. Still, Sloane and Wells Fargo's Velline both believe other banks will upgrade ATM technologies and add Windows- and browser-based functionality, imaging and speech capabilities in the next few years. After all, there's no stopping progress.

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