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Next-gen is a way to move the ATM into a mobile environment, says Donna Embry. Photo: iStock
In late 2018, the ATM Industry Association launched the next-gen project, which now consists of hundreds of global ATM companies working together to define a vision for the future of ATMs.
In this article, which part of a series on the next-gen ATM, we spoke to Donna Embry, SVP of global payment strategies at Evolve Bank & Trust, to learn more about the role she plays in the project.
If you are involved in the next-gen project at any level, sooner or later the name Donna Embry is going to come up. Based out of Louisville, Kentucky, Embry has worked alongside independent ATM deployers for more than 15 years. She got involved with the next-gen project early on and now serves on a number of ATMIA next-gen committees.
ATM Marketplace caught up with her over the phone last week to pick her brain on what next-gen is all about and to learn more about why IADs, in particular, should be paying attention to the project.
Q: What's your involvement with next-gen?
A: I have multiple involvements, mostly through the various ATMIA next-gen committees. I'm on the standards committee and the PR and communication committee. I also started and chair a committee for independent ATM deployers. The goal with that is to try and understand what impact next-gen would have on IADs and how they need to get involved.
Q: Take us back. How did you initially get involved with next-gen?
A: I joined early on when ATMIA was organizing and developing the next-gen specifications. I worked alongside the guys at Citi and with (ATMIA consultant and technical advisor) Marcel Ficken in reviewing the schematics. So, I've been involved since the beginning.
Q: We ask everybody this, but how do you define next-gen ATM?
A: Next-gen is basically a way to move the ATM into a mobile environment. We need to protect cash, and we need to protect access to cash. As banks and consumers switch to online and mobile channels, this project enables ATMs to adapt to that changing environment.
Q: Let's talk about IADs. How did you get involved with that aspect of the ATM world?
A: Starting in 2005, I worked with Payment Alliance International (the nation's largest privately held ATM deployer) for 12 years. PAI had two divisions. One was the bankcard division where they worked directly with merchants and independent sales organizations. They also had a large ATM division that provided processing and servicing to independent deployers. My role was to provide new products and services to the IADs, so I understand how market dynamics and new products impact the growth of the IAD business.
Q: Why do IADs need to be concerned with next-gen? How does it fit into their world?
A: The independent operators depend on various levels of service providers. They buy equipment from the manufacturers, and they use services provided by companies like Cardtronics and others to process payments and aid the IAD in servicing the machines.
Typically IADs own or share ownership of the machine. In many cases, they service the machine and set the pricing. Primarily, they need to be concerned with disintermediation of their business model as service providers integrate next-gen, so they don't get priced out of the market.
The second concern is backward integration. There are many generations and iterations of the types of machines in the field. IADs need to be concerned with whether next-gen will require them to purchase new equipment or lose the location altogether. It all circles back to costs versus revenue.
Q: How big of a role does preserving access to cash play in next-gen?
A: It plays a huge role. Next-gen will allow the mobile consumer to seamlessly include cash in their daily routines rather than having to rely on a legacy process to obtain cash. Originally, ATMs made the process of accessing cash seamless for consumers with a card. All consumers have to think about is how the machine works. No matter what card they have, they can go to any machine and it works, seamlessly.
But now, in the cardless environment, as new programs are being introduced — Apple Pay, Samsung pay, all the 'pays' — the experience is no longer seamless for the ATM user. It's much like in the early days of ATM when we had individual debit networks or individual banks with their own proprietary programs. Consumers had to think, okay, if it's this card, I have to go to this machine, which is in this location. Eventually, cash machines evolved to be seamless, so now it doesn't matter. But as these mobile, cardless types of payments get introduced, now the consumer has to think again. It makes it tough for them. Next-gen opens things up so that everybody can play by the same rules again.
Q: What else should we know about next-gen?
A:Next-gen will make it possible to put value-added services on the ATM, such as dynamic currency conversion, cryptocurrency or gift card purchases, basically any type of self-service function. And because next-gen is app based, adding on these services won't require costly upgrades or putting additional memory on the machine.
Next-gen will turn the ATM into more of a self-service machine for all of the financial services and payment needs for the consumer. Now the ATM matches the consumer's expectations for seamlessness, providing services where they are and where they live.
Today the consumer typically has to go to a bank to open up an account or take out a loan. But in the future, with all of the capabilities of the app-driven model of next-gen, you could potentially go to a machine at Home Depot. Say, you are getting ready to buy building materials and you need a loan, you could just accomplish that at the ATM in the store.
Q: When do you think we'll see next-gen ATMs? How far out in the future is all of this?
A: We'll probably see proof of concepts from some of the manufacturers, international deployers or processors in the next year. But I think that, realistically, this is a three- to five-year project, so it will be at least that long before we see material deployment.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Amy Castor has more than 20 years of experience in journalism and mass communications. In the last several years, she has gotten particularly interested cryptocurrencies, blockchain technologies and other evolving forms of payment. Her work has appeared in consumer and trade publications throughout the U.S., including CoinDesk, Forbes, and Bitcoin Magazine. She is now the editor of ATMmarketplace.com and WorldofMoney.comwww