Tuesday, 2 February 2016

It’s that time of year – back to ATM cards...

Paging through my latest bank statements online, I am reeling at the sticker shock from participating in the festive season. Like many of you, it’s a case of what happened? Was that dinner at my steakhouse really that expensive? And, did I buy my granddaughter a car – she’s only two? I work diligently to maintain good credit ratings and am judicious with my use of credit cards, juggling as I am between what can legitimately be charged to business and what constitutes a personal expense.
Compounding the expenses situation was that, living alongside Colorado's Rockies, the company command center we drove from coast to coast, tipping my toes in the Atlantic by the outer banks as well as having coffee by the Pacific shoreline just outside Santa Barbara, it had to be winterized and stored until spring. And then there was the entertainment we provided to numerous clients that in turn led to story lines featured in posts to other blogs. Clearly, for the foreseeable future, credit cards are back in the drawer as the ATM card takes over – the Holen-Buckle family is managing its situation or should I say, its predicament, purely from cash flow.

While I like how Ray Charles described circumstances in one song:
A big stack of bills that gets bigger each day
The county's gonna haul my belongings away cause I'm busted
and sympathise with Ray, this is far removed from the Holen-Buckle reality and yet, at this time of year, is something many of us can identify with. A big stack of bills – and they aren't Benjamins! No, there are times where the heralds of doom forecasting the imminent end of cash just don't understand the needs of society. Perhaps this is too simplistic, but there are some strong home truths to this – as snow fell all around and weather forecasts called for blizzard conditions, many of us looked to cash as the ultimate back up to any unforeseen development. Contrary to government reports, much of society we turn to for help is still cash driven, something that in turn is contributing to the development of new businesses almost by accident.

In my post of December 29th, 2015, In it for the long haul I wrote of how Uber was attempting to lure new drivers from the ranks of taxi drivers and as taxi drivers, for the most part, operated on a cash basis and didn't have traditional banking support, Uber 'would allow drivers to easily register for a bank account or prepaid card when signing up to work for Uber.' If Uber is becoming a bank, issuing debit cards to their drivers there's no end in sight to the potential disruptions facing FIs. Having written that before the New Year, taking a second look left me wondering about disruptions (facing FIs) not to mention, how 'disrupted' I would be if left totally without access to cash.

Ray Charles wrote of how he turned to family members even as he contemplated crime, but no, there was to be no relief so he was facing forced relocation 'just where I don't know cause I'm busted'. I am sure that most readers don't face similar prospects but then again, disruptions take many forms. Perhaps the complaint, by reporter Tony Armstrong of USA Today in an article published January 24th, 2016, Is your checking account too fat? How to tell and what to do about it is really all about avoiding disruption. 'Americans are stuffing their checking accounts with more cash than ever before,' writes Armstrong. 'This could be partly due to unease over the economy; money in a checking account is easy to access when you need it.'

Exactly! If cash is on its way out why then is everyone so keen to pad out their checking accounts – so we can get quick and easy access to it at times just like this. Economy unease? Plays a role of course, but in reality, it's hard to argue with a stack of Benjamins when networks have failed, power disrupted and there’s an urgent need for a contractor to clean up the basement. If not Banjamins, then certainly Jacksons, should you pull your cash from ATMs apart from those on the floor of Vegas casinos?

In times of crises history has proved cash to be king. My wife came to America from Poland where, in her student days, she related how there wasn't an apartment window box without one flowerpot hiding a Jackson, or two. Produce found its way onto the streets of Warsaw, if you knew where to look, and American currency meant you had purchasing power greater than your peers – and the ATM network was just across the border in Germany and Austria and everyone knew a pilot or official who knew how to access these cash dispensing machines and yes, simply forget to tick the appropriate boxes on currency declaration forms on returning to Poland. But now, ATMs are coming to the underserved politics notwithstanding.

'In central and southern American countries, we have been busy adding new capabilities for ATMs from simple government funding for poor mothers whereby cash is only accessible from an ATM to where inexpensive P2P loans are carried out via ATMs,' said OmniPayments, Inc. CEO, Yash Kapadia. From biometric support to novel pairings between ATMs and POSs, emerging countries benefit tremendously from deployment of ATMs, Yash is quick to point out. 'Disruptive? Yes, from what we see on a daily basis and the impact it has on societies we serve, ATMs' role in getting cash to where it should go is, to pardon the much over-used expression, priceless!'
Returning to dependence on cash at this time of year is a ritual for many and a clean and simple way whereby a budget can be enforced until tax returns start showing up in the mail. Is it a coincidence that cash flow shortages take place in the coldest months of the year? Family members turning a cold shoulder to our plight may not only be conveying a message but be demonstrating a reality – everything is cold, and no, it's not personal after all. ATMs certainly have changed our way of life in winter but for the rest of the year, do they still make the same statement?

Has the ubiquitous presence of ATMs across the planet really been as disruptive a technology on par with the likely disruptions FIs are facing from the actions of newbies like Uber? Irrespective of your take on what constitutes disruption, whether technology, business or even weather related, don't bet against the longevity of ATMs – if you still want to, I can peel off a Jackson or two if you so want to play that game!
About the author: Richard Buckle is the founder and CEO of Pyalla Technologies LLC. He has enjoyed a long association with the IT industry as a user, vendor, and more recently, as an industry commentator.

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