Monday , August 8, 2022

Deployers Are Driving Growth in the U.S., But Overall the ATM Count Is Sliding, a Report Says

Few payments sectors were harder hit by the pandemic than ATM networks around the world, and now numbers released over the weekend indicate that the global ATM installed base continued to decline last year, albeit at a slower rate than in 2020. 

The U.S. market, indeed, saw its ATM count increase by 3,000 machines in 2021 to 427,500, according to the data from the U.K.-based payments-research firm RBR, thanks to independent ATM deployers. The firm credits these operations with restarting machines that had been deactivated during the pandemic and with forging ahead with new installations. IADs are non-bank entities that enlist merchants and other operators to install ATMs. In a report it released in February, RBR credited IADs with having installed more than half of the nation’s ATMs.

Most nations, though, registered a further decline last year, according to RBR, as new variants of the Covid-19 virus turned up in various parts of the world, reinforcing fears of infection from touching public devices like ATMs. All told, the worldwide ATM count came to 3.09 million in 2021, down nearly 2% from 3.15 million in 2020, according to RBR. The 2020 count, in turn, represented a 2.5% drop from the 3.24 million total in 2019.

Not all observers, however, agree with RBR’s overall assessment. ATMIA, a global organization for ATM deployers, is looking for worldwide growth in ATM counts. The RBR report “doesn’t seem to chime with us,” says David Tente, ATMIA’s executive director for the USA, Canada, and the Americas. He says ATMIA expects installations will grow quickly, particularly in developing markets where digital payment and banking options may not be widely available. “They have a lot of catching up to do,” he notes.

Despite the turnaround in markets like the United States and India, however, RBR forecasts further overall declines as consumers increasingly adopt digital banking and payments services and as deployers shift focus to specialized applications beyond cash withdrawals. “As demand for cash declines, deployers in many countries will rationalize their fleets, optimizing efficiency with fewer but more functional ATMs, especially those which accept and recycle banknote deposits,” the firm notes in a release about its research.

RBR’s forecast for 2027, in fact, indicates a worldwide base of 2.93 million machines, down 5% from last year. If that number is realized, it will represent the first time since 2013 that the worldwide total has dropped below 3 million, RBR says. In fact, from now on growth in the worldwide installed base will come in Africa, the Middle East, and Africa, with particular energy in Egypt and Mexico, according to RBR’s forecast. 

“While some countries will see ATM numbers cut in favor of digital payments and banking, others are still building up self-service channels and access to cash,” says Rowan Berridge, who headed up RBR’s research, in a statement.

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