The following is a contributed article from Octavio Marquez, senior vice president and managing director, Banking Americas, at Diebold Nixdorf. Opinions expressed are author's own.
In recent years, there has been robust dialogue around all the ways technology has disrupted the banking and finance industries. Now, as the global pandemic affects business operations, banks are quickly adjusting to better leverage self-service and digital automation to bolster their customers’ experience.
The Department of Homeland Security classifies banking services as essential and critical infrastructure that must remain operational during the COVID-19 crisis. But to keep their employees and customers safe, many banks are reducing branch hours, requiring customers to make appointments or closing branches. As consumers' ability to conduct in-person banking transactions declines, banks are relying on technology to fill the gaps.
An important function of technology during the COVID-19 outbreak is addressing banking customer and employee concerns. As social distancing, regional lockdowns and quarantines continue, customers will still have the need to conduct critical banking transactions and access their funds, whether they're using a mobile device, online banking, debit or credit card, ATM or a bank drive-thru.
Fortunately, time-tested technology solutions are in place to help address this need. ATMs can be configured to enable users to conduct a variety of critical transactions beyond simply withdrawing cash, such as making deposits, paying bills, transferring funds or applying for loans. Over the years, many banks have closed their drive-up lanes, but this trend is reversing because of social distancing practices. Some banks are reinstalling their pneumatic tube systems to support the increased need for drive-up banking. In addition, interactive ATMs or "remote tellers" allow bank employees to serve customers around the clock. All of these options provide essential services while protecting customers and employees.
Finally, automated cash recycling, which enables ATMs to securely and accurately accept, validate, store and circulate cash, reduces the number of handling steps needed in the cash cycle. That boosts safety because employees take fewer trips to replenish the machines, and tellers don’t have to take deposits to sort and count.
Workers who maintain these systems and equipment for processing financial transactions are also considered essential and critical. Now more than ever, it's vital that these channels remain available and functioning properly.
Technology can step in
When human beings cannot be physically present, technology can keep critical services accessible — and not just at banks. For instance, self-service technology, including ATMs and self-checkout, is now mission-critical for daily operations inside grocery stores, fuel stations and pharmacies — enabling commerce to continue in the midst of social distancing. As long as banks and retailers ensure that equipment is being regularly disinfected by following best practices, access to this technology enables customers to meet their daily needs while also complying with the social distancing policies being enacted by governments and businesses around the world.
COVID-19 presents many challenges to the banking industry, but by keeping essential services operating, leveraging or deploying technology to address customer and employee concerns and improving the efficiency of remaining branches, banks can achieve the necessary stability to weather the crisis and endure for the long term.