ATM Stress Prompts Outsourcing
When it comes to ATM-related headaches, Tony Black, president of Baylor College of Medicine Federal Credit Union, has experienced a few migraines.
“We were sued once for allegedly not having a [fee disclosure] sticker on an ATM and we also had an ATM stolen out of the lobby of an office building,” Black, president of the $37 million, Houston-based institution, said.
After those harried incidents, BCM eradicated its ATM woes by partnering with a third-party provider.
“With the lawsuit, the stolen machine and increasing pressure to upgrade technology, it was a no-brainer to switch,” Black said. “By leasing machines instead of owning them, our insurance even went down.”
Through outsourcing, BCM cut operating costs, reduced stress on back- and front-office resources, enhanced member service and eased regulatory compliance burdens, he noted.
Small credit unions tend to be heavy users of outsourced ATMs, however, larger cooperatives have flocked to managed services in recent years, some industry experts have noticed.
“It was not that long ago when owning and operating your own ATMs was a smart move, but now, it seems that your ATMs are really owning you,” according to Paul Albright, vice president of sales and marketing for Outsource ATM, the Cypress, Texas-based firm that manages BCM's machines.
“With declining ATM interchange, required ATM hardware upgrades and increased processing expenses, the financial and regulatory environment has eliminated most, if not all, of the earnings the financial institution may have had in an ATM network,” Albright said.
Some credit unions don't even realize they can outsource ATMs.
“The ATM delivery channel is one that is no longer part of the credit union's core competency,” Albright said. “Credit union executives have been so focused on cost containment with their larger annual expenditures that the ATMs have stayed under the expense radar, until 2014's exposure of the Windows XP sunset and upcoming EMV requirements.”
Most ATM management companies typically provide an array of services, including transaction processing and reconciliation, maintenance alerts, vault cash forecasting and management, surcharge-free network access and marketing.
By partnering with the Syracuse, N.Y,-based Sharenet, the $358 million Cornerstone Community Federal Credit Union eased concerns about ATM-related compliance issues, Mary Scheib, vice president of operations at the cooperative in Longport, N.Y., said.
Not having to deal with ATM processing, reconciliation, vault cash forecasting, cash replenishment and ATM maintenance has saved Cornerstone a lot of time and money, she added.
“We get the best price on new ATM hardware and software because of Sharenet's collective buying power, and we no longer carry the burden of having to manage our ATMs on a daily basis,” Scheib said. “On a personal level, the biggest benefit is that I no longer get phone calls on the weekend saying that the ATM is down.”
John Wakefield, president/CEO of the $1.3 billion Empower Federal Credit Union, said switching to Sharenet has relieved a lot of burden and risk for the financial institution, which is also based in Syracuse.
“We no longer stress over the countless regulations like ADA, PCI, Windows migration and the upcoming EMV liability shift,” Wakefield explained.
Read more: Security prompts some to outsource ...
Security issues have driven many credit unions to outsource machines, according to Mark Smith, Sharenet vice president of sales, Southeast region.
“As payment technology and PIN security are going through significant changes, smaller financial institutions will benefit from an ATM provider like Sharenet that pays close attention to the details that impact their cardholders,” said Smith, who has served on several of the ATM Industry Association's committees.
Many credit unions have reaped a rapid return on investment by outsourcing ATMs.
The $863 million Texas Trust Federal Credit Union partnered with Dolphin Debit in Houston to manage its machines, Willy Kelsey, COO of the cooperative in Mansfield, Texas, said.
“We don't have to have the branch managers service the machines anymore, and from a back-office standpoint, there is hardly anything we need to do,” Kelsey said. “Staff at our branches can now concentrate on members, without worrying about balancing the ATM or fixing it when it is down.”
As a result, Texas Trust experienced a 34% increase in monthly ATM transactions and generated $39,000 in additional nonmember revenue in the first 10 months of operation, Kelsey said.
In 2013, Dolphin Debit partnered with the CU24, the Tallahassee, Fla.-based EFT and payment services CUSO to launch EasyATM, a new management service aimed at small and medium-sized credit unions.
“Financial institutions find that with our model, they just don't worry about their ATMs anymore,” Ben Allen, president of Dolphin Debit, said. “They don't have to maintain them, service them, update them or curse at them.”
The $100 million Statewide Federal Credit Union opted to outsource with Dolphin Debit after decades of dealing with various ATM nightmares, Paul Armstrong, general manager of the financial institution in Flowood, Miss, said.
“We had our own ATMs for probably 25 years, and we had come to look at them as a necessary evil,” Armstrong said. “We had lots of problems with those machines. Service people were out every week. Something was always breaking on them.”
Statewide Federal expects to save about $5,000 to $6,000 a year, according to Armstrong.
“Since we put in the new ATMs, all we do is put money in them and all is right with the world,” he said. “The machines are modern, light years ahead of what we had. We see more usage and the machines operate much faster.”
For other credit unions contemplating whether to outsource ATMs, Armstrong suggested taking a close look at how much time staff spends working on ATM-related issues such as machine maintenance, compliance, and other items strictly related to keeping the machines in service.
“Comparing the hard costs such as maintenance contracts, upkeep, and new ATM purchases is easy enough to do,” Armstrong offered. “The hidden costs are those that you can't put a dollar amount on very easily, but that can really drag down your operation.”