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Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Lack of interoperability, cash mar ATM patronage

Market Intelligence:

Remmy Nweke

PENULTIMATE Friday, Mr. Njoku, an upcoming young business executive with office in Victoria Island, but lives at Ajao Estate in the Mainland, both in Lagos, was optimistic about the coming weekend.

His optimism soon turned into dismay as he left office on by 3pm to withdraw some money with his Automated Teller Machine (ATM) debit card, along Ajose Adeogun Street, otherwise referred to as ‘banks avenue’ due to the number of banks on that street.

ATM card is usually issued by banks which could combine the functions of an ATM card and cheques, as well as used to withdraw cash at banks via ATM system.

Efforts to locate an ATM was proving difficult due to non-visibility of location signs in some of the banks, coupled with the traffic along the road because of the on-going reconstruction made things very difficult.

He was patient enough to abandon his car by the roadside and take to trekking down to Zenith International Bank, where there are about four ATMs including one specifically devoted for Visa.

A trial with his FirstCash debit card took the normal process of entering Personal Identification Numbers (PIN) code, choose the kind of account either from saving or current, then the amount.

Unfortunately for him, after a while there was no money for him and the system read the transaction was completed, requesting if he would like to continue.

This was repeated before he allowed the next customer to try. Effort to retry proved abortive.

The first question that came to mind was if these banks who claimed to be working seamlessly with one another through Interswitch have problems.

Mr. Njoku then called the attention of security personnel to inquire if lack of interoperability has been experienced previously by other customers when he was directed inside the banking hall where two ATMs were located.

Unluckily for him again, these two were faulty and undergoing repairs. So he left obviously disappointed.

After over 30 minutes on joining the traffic again and maneuvering, he found his way to Adetokunbo Ademola Way, another banks’ avenue and adjacent to the 1004 building first gate was First Bank.

Although he did not spot any ‘ATM is available’ sign, he decided to go into the bank, and behold, an ATM system was just at the entrance. In less than three minutes, he had some cash on his hands.

With smiling face he went home, to behold yet family issues that demanded more than the cash at hand. So, he was not perturbed however, still banking on his ATM, after all, his debit card is loaded.

Come Saturday afternoon, his wife joined him for a little ride with the agenda to use the ATM within their vicinity, but this was not to be.

At GTB along Airport road, where the ATM sign was very noticeable, a lady by name Tayo was already there looking angry due to her card which was Zenith could not be useful at that point.

According to her, she trekked over 200 metres down to GTB with hope that all would be well as soon as she accesses an ATM, yet it was not to be as she encountered the kind of Mr. Njoku’s initial experience.

However, also waiting to try their lucks on the same ATM at GTB were Messrs Ayo, Njoku and a polytechnic student, Edward.

Soon after Mr. Ayo trial was unsuccessful with his UBA debit card, followed by Njoku, and then, Mr. Edward simply declared, “Even First Bank” as he turned to head home, disappointed.

Investigations revealed that most banks are having interoperability issues in addition to installing their ATMs inside banking halls, thus making it impossible for bank customers to use the electronic chip cards as desired. Also, some bank officials informed that there could be lack of fund on these ATMs hence rendering them impotent.

Additionally, all the affected customers accosted in the course of this investigation have ‘Interswitch’ logo on their cards, meaning they were enabled to be active across board, whilst all the banks therein were among Interswitch consortium.

Therefore, management of banks in the country, especially those in Interswitch consortium, should find a solution to this so as not to discourage those who have already migrated and embraced the ATM culture as well as its evolution in the country by ensuring that there are adequate fund on their ATMs before every weekend.


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