THE severe cash shortage brought about by a debilitating liquidity crunch has severely reduced the use of automated teller machines (ATMs).
By Kudzai Kuwaza
An ATM is an electronic telecommunications device that enables customers of financial institutions to perform transactions such as cash withdrawals, deposits, transfer funds, or obtaining account information, at any time and without the need for direct interaction with bank staff.
However, since the advent of cash shortages most banks have resorted to giving money over the counter, resulting in long, winding queues at most financial institutions.
ATMs are now only used occasionally when banks look to reduce the pressure in banking halls which has resulted in most machines gathering dust at great cost to financial institutions.
The use of ATMs has also been affected by the introduction of bond coins by the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe which cannot be dispensed through ATMs. Some banks are now giving depositors cash in coin denominations of US$1, 50c, 25c and even as little as 10c.
A senior banking official pointed out that while there has been a significant increase in point-of-sale transactions there has been a dramatic decline in ATM cash transactions.
He said this has come at a huge cost to the banks. “Obviously ATMs come at a huge expense in terms of capital outlay,” the official said.
“ATMs cost anything between US$25 000 to US$50 000 and there is also the cost of the software licence.”
He said ATMs are no longer being used for their core purpose, which is dispensing cash.
This, he said, affects the overall value financial institutions are getting from ATMs.
FBC group marketing head Priscilla Sadomba said the cash deficit in the market has affected the use of their ATMs.
“The current cash shortages prevailing in the market have affected optimum utilisatilation of ATMs, particularly for the purposes of cash. Generally there is limited activity on usage of ATMs for cash dispensation. In a normal environment our ATMs dispense cash 24/7,” Sadomba said.
“While ATMs have primarily been used for cash dispensing, other transactional and non-transactional services are also available for the banking public such as bill payments to various service providers, inter account transfers, PIN change, balance enquiry amongst other things.
“This has allowed us to decongest branches as some services are now accessible via the ATM.”
Economist John Robertson points out that the drastic reduction in the use of ATMs is costly to banks.
“The ATMs are growing old and dusty,” Robertson said.
“The money being spent on the equipment by banks is not being recovered. The convenience of ATMs for depositors has disappeared. It is a serious problem.”
He said the introduction of bond coins “has not helped” in addressing the problem.