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ATMs keep banks in the minds of their customers

While ATMs are one of the more unchanging aspects of consumer banking, there's no doubt the landscape has shifted significantly following the rise of the digital era. Changing consumer preferences and the rapid advance of technology both significantly affect the way financial institutions operate. Banks need to offer services that patrons find relevant, necessary and convenient if they want to maintain their current branch structure. The same is true for banks moving to a new approach with their branches - while a strategy shift can often spur positive results, that plan must include considerations that appeal to customers and encourage them to visit a branch.

ATMs remain a broadly popular banking channel

ATMs have long been seen as a particularly useful and convenient banking tool among consumers. Before they were introduced, it was difficult and frequently impossible to directly access money stored in a savings or checking account. While customers could write and cash checks in situations where no other alternatives existed, this process was imperfect to say the least. ATMs offer easy access to funds combined with a high level of security and, when positioned correctly throughout a bank's branches and other community locations, make it easy for customers to withdraw cash no matter where they are.

A report from the Federal Reserve titled "Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015" that compares a variety of banking statistics across the years 2011-2014 found some major changes in the way U.S. residents bank and interact with financial institutions. The largest short-term change is the rise of the mobile phone as a banking tool. A majority of people in the U.S. own a smartphone, and 39 percent of all residents used those devices to engage in some form of mobile banking during 2014 - a significant increase above the 33 percent seen in 2013 and the 29 percent recorded in 2012. It's easy to see that mobile banking is here to stay and will have a major impact on the way financial institutions operate their current facilities and how they make plans to open new ones.

Despite the rapid increase in mobile banking popularity, however, visits to branches and the use of ATMs remain the most popular methods of banking. The most recent statistics in the report, from 2014, show branch visits and ATM utilization both increased from the first year covered in the study to the last, starting at 85 and 74 percent, respectively, and reaching 87 and 75 percent in 2014. While online and mobile banking are forcing financial institutions to shift their strategies, ATMs and branches are clearly touch points that resonate with a large majority of current and potential customers.

Using modern, secure ATMs that offer customers and banks a number of features - including but not limited to accepting deposits, EMV readiness and easily upgraded systems - and positioning them in high-traffic areas allow traditional branches to offer a high level of convenient and needed service.