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NEEDHAM, Mass. – When the topic is the latest and greatest in bank and credit union service delivery channels, a mainstay of retail services hardware infrastructure – the automated teller machine – is often overlooked. Yet the venerable ATM and point-of-sale (POS) processing space could well be the foundation of a new core retail financial services architecture – which TowerGroup calls the Customer Interaction Management (CIM) hub. It’s already happening in fits and starts, says Jerry Silva, a TowerGroup analyst who authored a new report about the CIM idea, and he says the advantage may go to the vendors who can combine that core transaction processing most effectively with the newer delivery channels. “Almost every solution provider in the delivery channel market – branch, call center and online banking – lacks not only an ATM solution but an integration strategy into that channel as well,” Silva says in the report titled “Transaction Processing Systems as Engines for the Customer Interaction Hub.” “Likewise, the technology companies that provide solutions in the ATM, point-of-sale and electronic funds transfer market have done little to address any of the other delivery points in the network,” he says. Of course, banks and credit unions deploy all of these channels to serve their members and customers, with the “resulting disparity between delivery systems creating a management problem” for financial institutions and a “schizophrenic view” of the institution from the consumer’s perspective, Silva argues. Integrating these channels will involve breaking down silos of stand-alone processes and data, but also will yield the opportunity to more effectively use customer-relationship management (CRM) tools, too, to retain and expand business relationships with individual consumers. Vendors and financial institutions alike have been trying to integrate these channels, and TowerGroup is “advancing the concept of a Customer Interaction Management (CIM) hub as an architecture to bring the delivery systems together,” the TowerGroup analyst says. The long-standing capability and reliability of ATM and point-of-sale (POS) processing systems, combined with the development of barrier-busting XML-based Web services, may position vendors in that space in the best place to make the CIM happen first, Silva says. Still, this is going to take some work to develop into a true CIM hub, an architecture that would combine branch, agent and IVR call center, online and ATM functions into an integrated whole, not just an integrated view of disparate systems. “This integration is more than an interface, and should be more than a message portal to move transactions from one system to the next,” the TowerGroup analyst says. A CIM hub will combine all these functions into one “infrastructure layer that can be maintained in one place, and that can be accessed by any of the delivery channels,” Silva says. It’s not so far fetched, he says. “Today’s transaction processing systems are becoming more and more open, less proprietary in their care and feeding and richer in their functionality,” Silva says. As for who’ll get there first, Silva says: “TowerGroup believes that it is unlikely that the traditional transaction processing application vendors will develop robust business processing capabilities in the next five years. What is more likely is that the hardware platforms used for ATM and POS systems today will become hosts for new and/or existing application products that will be ported to the robust hardware and operating system environment.” -

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