Wells Fargo Rolls Out Internet-Enabled ATMs

BOSTON (05/15/2000) - The person waiting in line behind you may not be entirely pleased, but Wells Fargo & Co. has recast the automated teller machines (ATM) at some of its banks as "street-corner portals to online information."

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo said its ATMs have been Web-enabled to offer not just cash, banking transactions and stamps, but also headline news and full-motion video.

Some analysts were concerned about the potential for traffic problems.

"These are things that will cause people to be at ATMs for a longer period of time," said George Barto, an analyst at Gartner Group Inc. in Stamford, Connecticut. "People who just want cash may be backed up, so I'm not sure of the great value of it from that perspective."

Richard Bell, director of Internet banking for TowerGroup in Needham, Massachusetts, echoed that concern but said that with care, a financial institution could ameliorate it.

Boon for Customers

"Adding more ATMs is certainly one possibility," he said. "Changing the functionality based on time of day and ATM usage levels is another."

Overall, Bell said, Web-enabling the ATMs should help customers.

"For example, if I previously interacted with an institution through their call center over an issue and I went to an ATM the next day and they had resolved that issue, telling me about it on the ATM saves me a phone call, saves them a phone call," he said. "It's better service."

Even ads such as movie trailers or event promotions may serve a need, Bell said, if the institution knows that a particular event is of interest to that particular customer.

"Do you enjoy looking at 15 seconds of dead screen, or would you enjoy looking at 15 seconds of movie trailer?" he said. "It happens that I enjoy contemporary and modern dance. Say I'm going up to get some cash and the ATM says, ‘Hey, did you know that the Joffrey Ballet is coming to town and I can get you a great ticket right now. Are you interested?' Of course, I would be."

Wells Fargo unveiled the ATMs two weeks ago in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

More than 800 of the machines are scheduled to be available this year in California and Arizona, with the rollout continuing next year.

At the ATM

Customers approaching the new ATMs will view full-motion movie previews or entertainment, Wells Fargo said. After inserting their ATM cards, users will receive a personalized greeting message plus MSNBC.com headlines at the bottom of the screen.

Transactions are selected using touch-screen, drop-down menus. A sidebar menu option will give customers a link to a full Web screen and more detailed product offerings from Wells Fargo, the bank said.

Linda Altan, an analyst at Gartner Group, said the Web capabilities are in use elsewhere and don't have to cause traffic problems.

"This is very widespread in England and very often in various locations they may have three ATMs - one for deposits, one for cash, and one for some of these other activities," she said.

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