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As banking technology and strategy evolve, ATMs can provide consumers with all the conveniences of branch banking.

Smart Deployment

Ensor's advice is not lost on most banks. They realize they must be smart about how they deploy their next-generation ATMs. It just does not make business sense for every machine to be all things to all customers. The more complex functions can be time-consuming, leading to long lines at ATMs and annoyed patrons.

Ensor sees different "species" of ATMs coexisting, some with simple functions and others that offer the more complex transaction features, such as check imaging. "It doesn't make sense, if you think about how customers use the machines, to have multiple-use ATMs everywhere," he says. "We'll see segregation of ATMs that play different roles." Of course, all machines should have a set of baseline functions on them, he acknowledges, adding that banks are likely to deploy their advanced ATMs selectively, depending on the demographics of a given area.

For Wachovia's part, the bank plans to approach its customers to gauge the types of features they would like on the machines. "Every customer can be a bit different," says the bank's Symons. "We don't plan on having a massive array of services at all our ATMs - most customers just want to withdraw cash. And there are queuing issues to deal with. But we'll do customer focus groups to see what they want."

So, will the allure of these new features ultimately lead to more traffic at the machines? Perhaps. However, that is not necessarily the goal of all financial institutions at this point in time, given the channel's maturity.

"The growth of ATM transactions is only 1 to 2 percent because the number of machines keeps going up," says TowerGroup's Silva. "This makes the value proposition of experimenting with new features more sensitive because you're dealing with existing customers. You have to think about how to please them rather than attracting new users."

"Each bank has its own goals, and it may not be just to increase traffic," says US Bank's Estep. "They may want to better serve their clients or reach out to new ones in different areas."

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