Money: A cashpoint in the pub?

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The Independent Online
Banks are set to bite back at long last against the growing competition from the likes of Sainsbury and Marks & Spencer, which are moving into the banking business. If NCR's Jim Adamson has his way the bank's chosen weapon will be a customised cash dispenser which can sell travel and theatre tickets, stamps, and even unit trusts, print and dispense phone cards and vouchers for special offers in supermarkets, as well as accepting deposits and dispensing cash.

Instead of offering a plain choice of cash with a receipt and cash without, the new machines offer a menu of services, which can be summoned at the touch of a button, and could deliver on the spot and then debit the customer's bank account accordingly.

Individual machines could be badged and branded to act as mobile outlets, with the screens continually advertising and selling a range of services selected by the owner/operators to passers-by.

It raises the prospect of a new generation of busy customers getting stuck in a queue behind a line of nerds checking out all the latest offers, so installing a machine with just the right range of services for the locality will clearly be one of the secrets of success.

The new generation of machines is coming off the production line in NCR's Dundee factory and could be installed and operating in January. Banks are expected to be among the principal buyers, as they replace their existing stock of 22,000 machines around the country.

The dispensers, also known as ATMs, will replace still more branch banks and will be able to process a banking transaction at a real cost of just 16p, compared with the 100p the average transaction across a bank counter costs. ATM transactions are also cheaper than telephone banking transactions, and unlike the other outlets the machines can actively advertise and sell a range of services to a captive audience.

Unlike all previous dispensers, which have been sold exclusively to banks and building societies, NCR will be selling or leasing its newrange to anyone who wants one and has the space to install it.

The smallest of the new machines costs about pounds 8,000-pounds 10,000, stands about a metre square, and can sit on counters and desk-tops in post offices, pubs, supermarkets, car parks, railway stations, petrol stations and anywhere else potential customers congregate. It weighs about half a tonne, contains up to 20,000 banknotes, and comes complete with a safe and several other security features designed to deter ram-raiders.

Its big brother has four times the cash capacity, a deposit slot for cash and cheques, and a wide range of additional functions can be incorporated.

In the US, where the technology is ahead of the UK, individual entrepreneurs can and do buy machines, install them, contract out the supply of a range of services and charge the providers and the consumers a small fee for the convenience of using the machine.

Evidence shows that although older people still resist the idea of paying for a service they could get free in another place and time, most people under 45 have no qualms about paying a small sum for the convenience of getting the service here and now.

Overall, 80 per cent are willing to pay. Will you?

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