From September to November this year, the BNZ will deploy what it claims is the world’s first national network of ATMs based entirely on NT.
Most of the change will be in software, since the bank has already upgraded its ATM hardware progressively over the past year or more.
The change will remove the limitations of the OS/2 operating system the ATMs were operating under, increasing the repertoire of applications that can be done on the ATM itself with minimal reference to a back-end machine, says BNZ head of online solutions Phil Tate. NT also makes the ATMs a more “open” platform, allowing them to communicate with multiple hosts. So as well as communicating with the basic ATM application, the machines will hook into other BNZ services like internet banking. This will in time give the customer an identical interface to the one seen at his/her PC when doing internet banking.
The ATM software, developed by Canadian firm Phoenix Interactive, is “parameter driven”, using XML, considerably easing the task of interfacing with various hosts, says senior project manager Dave Win.
Initially, the customer will be given a few extra transactions, such as the ability to display multiple account balances on the same screen and have them printed out together. Bill payment to third-party organisations like power and telecomms suppliers will be made available at the ATM in the early stages. Sophisticated advertising, with full-motion video, will also make its appearance.
“We don’t want to frighten the customer off,” says Tate, or inconvenience that customer or the ones behind him/her in the queue with a lot of long and fiddly transactions. “Our approach is to keep it simple to begin with.”
In the future, though, lies that current watchword “personalisation.” The customer who always withdraws $100 at a time and wants to look at account balances after that will be recognised from his/her card and will only have to enter a pin and press one or two keys to order “the usual”.
The bank also plans joint exercises with other businesses to encourage siting of machines away from banks. An ATM in a petrol station, for example, might print out with the receipt a discount coupon for a purchase in the station’s store. In time, Tate says, new services might lengthen the queues. Then the bank might have to think about instituting “express ATMs” providing only basic functions for users with simple transactions, rather like the express queue in a supermarket.
He does not see it making the bank branch building less economical by taking all the business outside. There will always be transactions and discussions that need face-to-face contact with bank officers. In fact the new ATM will probably have a beneficial effect by allowing staff to concentrate on the transactions that really need their personal attention, he says.
BNZ’s parent, the National Australia Bank, will be following BNZ in its implementation of the new software, but will be introducing targeted online marketing to ATM customers with specific profiles — something BNZ is not initially implementing.
Westpac has made a rather more tentative step into ATM enhancement with the NCR software we and our contacts have been calling eRIC; we are now told that eRIC is an informal, internal name and the software should properly be called Aptra Advance.
A BNZ spokeswoman initially contacted about its plans last week told Computerworld: “What we’re doing blows Westpac’s effort out of the water.”
The National Bank also confirms it will deploy enhanced ATM software in the near future, but is staying close-mouthed on what functions it will support.