Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Many worries of ATM

The introduction of Automated Teller Machines (ATMs), was intended to aid the realisation of the nation’s desire to attain a cashless society. However, CHARLES OKOH reports that some ugly trends are now mitigating against this innovative march to an e-economy.

UNTIL recently, using the banking hall for any form of transactions was not an experience that many would wish for their enemies.

You could spell horror on the faces of many a customer as soon as they walk into a banking hall to meet with lots of people who may have spent several hours there just to withdraw or deposit money.

The worst culprits were the old generation banks. Then, people made mockery of customers going with mattresses and pillows to their banks.

Soon after, came the new generation banks and with it reforms and innovations. One of such innovations with modern banking transactions was the introduction of e-payment products, chief of which is the Automated Teller Machines (ATMs).

Since the introduction of the ATMs, many customers could hardly tell how banking halls look like again, except when they have to deposit money in their accounts.

Bisi Balogun, not real names, recently said she does all her transactions electronically. According to her, the experience has spared her the trouble associated with the banking halls.

“The e-payment products have opened the doors for Nigerians to enjoy what until recently they could not have imagined,” she said.

She also said that using the ATM had saved her the embarrassment of going to the bank to withdraw small amount of money.

“When I am broke and want to withdraw small amount of money, I do not have to face the humiliation one suffers from many bank cashiers. In fact, the ATM comes with some measure of respect as people still see it as elitist irrespective of the fact that one may have withdrawn as little as one thousand naira only,” she said.

Many banks today, have deployed hundreds of ATMs nationwide and have been employing deliberate policies to encourage their customers to use the ATMs.

Some banks have even moved further to configure their ATM to pay cash for both domestic and international cardholders to have instant access to cash at any ATM in the country.

However, like every other innovation, there is a flip-side to the automated solutions.

Recently, at one of the new generation banks at Isolo area in Lagos, a man walked into the premises of the bank to withdraw some money. At the first attempt, the machine did not dispense cash. Just when he was about making a second attempt, a pretty young lady, who saw that he was attempting to try again, cautioned him against doing so.

The lady told him, that he stands to be debited to the tune he had intended to withdraw if he tried again.

She narrated her own experience, not long before, when she had to go to the person in charge for reconciliation only to discover after a long while that she had been debited for money she did not withdraw.

Whereas, hers may be easy to resolve given that the ATM in question was that of her bank, what will be the fate of those who have used ATMs that belong to another bank and who may not know immediately that they had been debited.

Mr. Kola Ali, a staff of one of the new generation banks in Lagos, needed to use cash to solve an immediate problem where he was. Luckily for him, he looked around and saw a nearby ATM. He approached the machine but the attempt was fruitless. He had no way of knowing that his accounts had been debited to the tune of N2,000 until after a while when he checked his balance.

Ali also, narrated another experience when he used the ATM in his bank, but was unsuccessful, only to be notified later through a short messaging services (SMS) alert that his account had been debited to the tune of N10,000. He hurriedly approached officials in charge of the ATM where he was told to fill a form.

This worrisome trend is indeed a cause for concern for many unwary customers who may not take time to be checking their balance often.

Cases like these will only stall the march of the nation to a cashless society.

The ATMs are increasingly becoming unreliable because most times people would have to move from one ATM to the other, just about the same time it would have taken one to go to the bank and withdraw money.

The explanations often displayed by the machines are: Temporary out of cash, your network is not connected or try elsewhere among others.

Coupled with all these is the lackadaisical approach of some banks staff in loading the machine when it runs out of cash.

Another first generation bank in Isolo, had about five customers intending to withdraw through the ATM. Whereas the ATM was working, but it had ran out of cash.

When the lady in charge of attending to complaints was approached, she pleaded with the customers to be patient because the officer in whose care the ATM is was not around.

She pleaded that in 30 minutes the person would have been back. 30 minutes became two hours and yet the person was no where to be found. The problem of these customers were made worse because they did not come with either their cheque book or withdrawal slip and to think that this particular ATM is located right in the premises of the bank makes it even more worrisome.

An information technology expert, who does not want his name in print, said that banks should endeavour to find solutions to these problems, because the benefits accruing to them from e-payments are enormous.

He also said since many banks are trying to confine small accounts holders to the machines, because of the desire to make more money from charges thereof, it goes without saying that they stand to lose when the confidence of people are dampened by their inability to access their money, whenever and wherever they so desire.

“This will serve as a disincentive to such customers, and ultimately, the banks stand to lose,” he noted.

ITREALMS Online ... delivering news for ICT4D

1 comment:

sanjay said...

Thanks for this information , it’s very interesting ti see how different monetization sources can help a blog . I’m always amazed at those who are able to make numbers in the online doing blogs.

Cash Matrix