RBI's plan to make the ATM usage free from April 2009 is moving well forward and there are chances that this move might affect the country's ATM platform in the coming times.
For now there is no significant change in the demand for ATMs by the banks said a senior official from NCR Corporation, a technology firm specializing in products for the retail and financial sectors. "We have not seen any significant drop in demand from banks for ATM machines," said NCR Corporation India MD, Pradeep Sen.
He further added that, "Embracing technology is perhaps the best way to acquire new customers for banks, especially since there is still demand for cost-efficient solutions in the market." At the same time he confirms that if the demand falls from here the situations are likely to worsen.
Earlier some banks had opposed the RBI's proposal to remove the ATM fees by April 2009. The banks protested by saying that they have made huge investments in making the network and this proposal would give away the ready-made stage to other banks without any cost. For now banks are stuck on their ATM expansion targets.
Rahul N Bhagat, Country head of retail liabilities of HDFC Bank said that they have not reduced their targets for ATMs in the coming months. Even the largest lender, SBI confirmed that it would not slowdown on ATM expansion plans and has decided to increase the network from 7,200 to 25,000 in the next three years.
Mr. Sen on the other hand said the ATM sharing proposal from the RBI should not hamper the banks' plan to set its own ATM as banks would have to pay for getting their ATM swapped in other machines as well as the brand visibility will come under stake when a customer is allowed to visit a competitor's ATM. "There's a trade off between the costs of setting up a ATM and these two factors," he said.
Also the experts feel that setting up an ATM is one of the ways by which banks can add on their financial inclusion plans. At the times when costs of setting up a branch are high and business prospects are doubtful, increase in ATM network would be the best option for banks.
Currently there are about 35,000-ATMs in India, out of which 60% are contributed by four major banks - SBI, ICICI Bank, HDFC Bank and Axis Bank.