Does Video Conferencing On An ATM Make Sense?

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.

Does Video Conferencing On An ATM Make Sense?

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.

Does Video Conferencing On An ATM Make Sense?

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.

Does Video Conferencing On An ATM Make Sense?

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


  • I like the peace and privacy of the bank branch – even getting money out of the ATM, while convenient, is still something that makes me slightly paranoid.

    Applying for a home loan via ATM would totally turn me off.

  • Not a fan of brick and mortar banks? For most people the ATM closest to their house is often attached to the bank in their suburb.

    I just can’t honestly see myself choosing a laggy video conference on a tiny screen with wind and traffic all around me when I could walk 10 meters into the bank and have a face to face conversation in an airconditioned environment without having to scan everything im trying to show them or worry about the ATM malfunctioning.

    Sure this would make sense for places without a local branch and would make even more sense if they were indoors only ones, but for the average person I can’t see a video conferencing atm session to be a more appealing option than a phonecall from the comfort of your own house or walking into the bank for a face to face conversation. Also curious how well the scanner could detect a fake ID when used for identification purposes, seems like it would be much easier to fool the teller if she only has a scan to look at.

  • For me personally, I think it comes down entirely to how it’s implemented.

    Would I use an ATM in the middle of the street for conferencing? Hell no, regardless of what type of services are offered. However, if the machines were offered in a more private setting, I can see the appeal. For example, I think I’d be comfortable walking into a branch and using such a service – though I would expect that I should be talking to an Australian staffer, not someone in India.

    While putting these types of ATMs inside branches seems counter intuitive to reducing costs, regardless of location, they’re still cutting down on the number of branch staff required at each location, and also has the ability to allow bank’s call centre staff to be available at any location as required.

  • It is bad enough waiting for grandma and grandpa hold up a line of people at the ATM while fumbling around, reading pin numbers out to the world written down, and rereading everything on the screen 3 times, without implementing video conferencing to the ATMs – killing their time saving advantage.

    Any such video facility would be better served as a separately designed video “kiosk” – with the dedicated data links the banks use, it could be excellent quality as well (although you would want a larger higher resolution screen than a typical atm).

  • I can see the up side as a user to getting help from a teller when you’re having an issue with the ATM or something else. But as the person in the queue standing behind you, omg please no.

    Automated banking in Australia is fairly archaic, ATMs just dispense cash and a few accept cash deposits via envelopes (which are all manually processed by bank staff the next business day).
    “Recent” years has seen the advent of allowing users’ to change their PIN at the ATM and the credit/bank cards with chips in them are considered “new”.

    I first saw the “new” chip cards in Malaysia about 10 years ago. When I went to pay with my credit card the store attendent had trouble figuring out what to do with my card that had no chip and only a magnetic strip. He apparently had only been trained in inserting chip cards and didn’t know about swiping older ones with magnetic strips.

    In China it’s also very common for ATMs to do a multitude of things besides just dispensing cash. Things such as taking straight cash deposits where all notes are individually recognised by the ATM, calculated and instantly added to your bank balance. Bank notes in China are made out of paper and are usually fairly tattered compared to Aus notes, but the ATMs do a very good job at recognising them. If they don’t they spit out the ones they can’t figure out and usually you just need to flatten the notes and unfold the corners and stick them back in.
    The ATMs in China also do passbook accounts and will print relevent details correctly on a given passbook. You can even transfer money to other accounts from an ATM as well as other common banking things.

    And from what I’ve heard, but not my personal experience, ATMs in Japan are like playing video games with all their boop boop noises

  • 1/ Privacy
    2/ Security
    3/ convenience
    4/ call charges
    If all these are met to my satisfaction, I have no problems with it. Somehow though, I don’t think they can meet them!! #]

  • The cheque scanning feature would be far more useful and more widely used/needed than a gimmicky video conferencing feature. Sure I can see some uses for it, but at an every day ATM in the street? No. The cheque scanning would and could be used at an every day ATM. Like it or not some organisations give you cheques still (like, oh I don’t know, every organisation you don’t have direct debit with), getting a scanned copy of that once deposited in an ATM will make people feel a lot safer, especially when depositing cheques of large amounts.

  • Video chatting with someone who is probably sitting 10,000 kms away in Bangalore makes very little sense.

    As a previous poster said, security is my main concern when using an ATM. I’d prefer to see a brightly lit area around the ATM and CCTV screens up and down the street when I need to make those late-night withdrawals.

  • I note that the terminal shown is still built for midgets, “not that there’s anything wrong with that”!

    Being over the old 6 foot tall I have to bend my knees to see the screen and press the buttons.

    So whilst I agree with other respondents on privacy, quietness and security, I feel it is missing one very important but age-old technology – a chair!

  • Since you don’t need any credentials to initiate the video chat, I foresee this turning into a fun variant of chatroulette.

    I’m assuming one key advantage of this is the ability to talk to a teller outside normal bank hours?

  • “Hello bank? My account is empty because I spent hundreds on crap, and I felt the urge to waste not only your time, but mine and the time of everyone in the line behind me, to tell you that I’m angry. If this feature is here, I’ll use it!”

    “Hello bank? Can I speak to a Mr. Tobooger? First name Ollie?”

    Well I like the idea of dumping a load of coins into an ATM. Right now I go to my bank and spend ages while they count it all up. Even if it’s bagged up in correct amounts they get shitty with me, so bypassing them would be great.

    Plus with me finishing work at 4:30 and my local bank closing at 4, I’d be far happier!

  • Modern ATMs seem to already have more than their fair share of poorly-designed interfaces and terrible maintenance routines. Let’s worry about these issues before we go trying to stuff a complete bank into one.

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