The ATM Revolution
As we analyze what automation means for the future of banking, we must look to draw any lessons from the automated teller machine, or ATM. The ATM is a far cry from the supermachines of tomorrow; however, it can be very instructive in understanding how technology has previously affected branch banking operations and teller jobs.
Since their modest beginnings 50 years ago, ATMs have evolved from simple cash dispensing machines as consumer needs dictated. From “drive-up” ATMs in the 1980s to “talking” ATMs with voice instructions ’90s, now Video Teller ATMs have become more prevalent. On the back of further innovations and advancements such as integrations, mobile “cardless” access, and larger tablet interfaces, the next stage in the evolution of the ATMs may be “robo-banks” that can do what tellers do.
But how did the introduction and growth of ATMs affect the job of tellers? Despite an increase of roughly 300,000 ATMs implemented since 1990, the number of tellers employed by banks did not fall. According to the research by James Bessen of the Boston University School of Law, there are two reasons for this counterintuitive result.
First, ATMs enabled rapid expansion in the branch network through reduced operating costs. Each new branch location meant more tellers, but fewer tellers were required to adequately run a branch. Second, ATMs freed tellers from transactional tasks and allowed them to focus more on both relationship-building efforts and complex/nonroutine activities.
On another note, ATMs also introduced new jobs as armored couriers have been required to resupply units and technology staff to maintain ATM networks. However, dealing with the complexities of having multiple systems access customer information provided new challenges.
In 2014, there were about 520,000 tellers in the United States—with 25% working part-time. This number is expected to decrease by 40,000 by 2024 due to multiple drivers, including the proliferation of mobile banking, the rise of “cognitive agents,”, and other innovations like the “humanoid robot,” that all fall under the umbrella of automation.