Does Video Conferencing On An ATM Make Sense?

A new ATM design incorporates video-conferencing, meaning you can chat with a teller even if there’s not a branch around. How tempted would you be to use one?

First, some context: I’m no fan of bricks-and-mortar banks. To me, having to do anything with my bank that even involves making a phone call suggests a major fail somewhere along the line. The only time I ever venture into physical branches is if I have a large stash of small coins which I need turned into something less unwieldy.

Last week, I checked out a demonstration of a new prototype video ATM being introduced by NCR.

The ATM includes usual cash withdrawing features you’d expect. It also has a nifty option that lets you deposit both cheques and cash in one ungainly heap, counts them and prints a scan of the deposited cheques on the back of your receipt. That would be useful if you do deal with cheques, though I also personally consider cheques about as antediluvian an option as polystyrene and find it hard to comprehend their continued use in the US and other places.

However, the really big selling point for the new ATM is the video-conferencing option. Rather than interacting via the usual card/PIN/touchscreen options, customers can simply tap the screen and be connected directly to a teller in a remote location. Once that happens, the ATM is controlled directly by the teller, and can be used for withdrawing cash, depositing money, making account queries and even organising a home loan. A built-in scanner allows the teller to check passbooks or other forms of ID such as driver’s licences if a card hasn’t been used to verify their identity. There’s also the option to use biometric security in the form of fingerprint or face recognition.

That opens up a likely future where banks could set up much smaller footprint locations in shopping centres and the like, rather than having to fit out full-scale branches. While it might seem unlikely that banks would want to offer teller service 24 hours a day, many already have call centres operating across those hours. With most people who visit an ATM at 2am unlikely to want anything more than additional beer and taxi money, resourcing the handful of people with more complex queries wouldn’t be particularly expensive.

There are no Australian banks signed up to launch the option, but NCR says a “major Australian financial institution” would be testing one in the coming weeks. Would you want to use a video ATM? Would you insist on it having privacy screens around it? Would you rather we all moved swiftly to a cashless society? Tell us in the comments.

Lifehacker’s weekly Loaded column looks at better ways to manage (and stop worrying about) your money.

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