Article

Safe Use of ATMs Amid COVID-19 Concerns

African-American businesswoman wearing mask uses ATM and mobile app
Contributing Writer

3 minutes

Credit unions can leverage new technology proactively to disinfect and limit physical contact with machines.

As credit union branches closed in response to the COVID-19 health crisis in March and April, members’ primary interaction with credit unions was occurring either via the drive-thru or the ATM.

“People felt safe using an ATM because there was no physical contact with a teller and they were able to maintain social distancing,” says Terry Pierce, director of ATM product management at CUES Supplier member CO-OP Financial Services, Rancho Cucamonga, California.

Pierce notes that consumers still expressed concerns about interacting with the ATM screen and PIN pad. To alleviate those fears, CO-OP recommends that financial institutions take a proactive approach to disinfecting the surfaces of their ATMs. “They can either undertake this task with their own staff members or outsource it to a third-party vendors,” she says.

Consumers, meanwhile, can do their part by following CDC guidelines—use disinfect wipes when interacting with the machine, avoid touching your face and wash your hands when you return home. “There’s an onus and responsibility on both parties, the consumer and the provider, to ensure that ATMs can be used safely,” Pierce says.

Adam Crighton, SVP/general manager of digital first self-service banking for NCR, Atlanta, concurs that it’s important for financial institutions and consumers alike to take responsibility for staying safe. “We published guidelines for financial institutions on cleaning and sanitizing equipment, and we advise consumers adopt best practices and follow the guidelines laid out by the WHO and local authorities,” he says.

Paramount Management Group, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, has taken the initiative to disinfect its own fleet of ATMs and that of its customers by partnering with ViaClean Technologies (viacleantechnologies.com), explains Jorge Fernandez, chief development and marketing officer for Paramount Management Group and its subsidiary, Sharenet, Jacksonville, Florida. ViaClean manufactures an EPA-registered, FDA-compliant product called BIOPROTECT, which provides antimicrobial protection on surfaces for up to 90 days.

“I think the key is to convince the consumer that interacting with a machine is as safe or safer than interacting with a human being,” says Fernandez. “The implementation of cardless transactions at an ATM, where you pre-stage a transaction with your smartphone and then access the funds through a one-time-use QR code is another solution to this.”

In response to COVID-19, Crighton observes that NCR’s customers are highly focused on driving teller transactions to the self-service channel. “Financial institutions should expect that customers’ desire for more self-service options will remain,” he says. “Interactive teller machines and contactless technologies are all expected to be essential … now and in the future.”

Simon Powley, head of global advisory consultant services for Diebold Nixdorf, North Canton, Ohio, expects a lasting effect of the COVID-19 health crisis to be an overall acceleration in the adoption of digital technologies.

“I think the first thing you’ll see is more digitally enabled and multifunctional kiosks, including additional functionality at the ATM. The physical, self-service device is very quickly becoming critical in the financial institution’s digital strategy,” he says.

While much about the post-COVID-19 world remains uncertain, Fernandez surmises that automated self-service solutions will grow in importance. He compared the COVID-19 crisis to a train going through a tunnel.

“We don’t know how long it’s going to take to get through the tunnel,” he says, “but when we come out on the other side, we are going to have different needs as a society because of the things we’ve learned. We’ve already been seeing a push toward making things more lean, efficient and cost-effective through various forms of technology, from ATMs to video tellers to mobile phones. When we emerge from the tunnel, technology is going to continue to play an important role in how credit unions deliver products and services to their members.”

Based in Missouri, Diane Franklin is a longtime contributor to Credit Union Management magazine.

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