On June 27, the Automated Teller Machine (or ATM) celebrated its half century. Fifty years ago, the first cash machine was put to work at the Enfield branch of Barclays Bank in London. Two days later, a Swedish device known as the Bankomat was in operation in Uppsala.
These events fired the starting gun for today’s self-service banking culture – long before the widespread acceptance of debit and credit cards.
The success of the cash machine enabled people to make impromptu purchases, spend more money on weekend and evening leisure, and demand banking services when and where they wanted them. The infrastructure, systems and knowledge they spawned also enabled bankers to offer their customers point of sale terminals, and telephone and internet banking.
Interestingly, people in most urban areas around the world tend to interact with the same five ATMs. But they shouldn’t be taken for granted. In many countries in Africa, Asia and South America, they offer services to millions of people otherwise excluded from the banking sector.
In most developed counties, meanwhile, the retail branch and the ATM are the only two channels over which financial institutions have 100 percent control. This is important when you need to verify the authenticity of your customer.