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Off-Site ATMs Boost Financial Inclusion

There were 3.3 million ATMs worldwide at the end of 2017, 51 percent of which were located away from branches. The number and share of off-site ATMs continue to increase, with more than 15,000 new such terminals installed during 2017.

In rural areas, the ATM is sometimes the only point of contact between a bank and its customers. According to London-based RBR’s latest report, Global ATM Market and Forecasts to 2023, the location of ATMs varies widely by region. However, with the exception of Latin America, off-site is the most common location for ATMs in every region. Nearly two-thirds of the major markets surveyed have more than 50 percent of ATMs installed away from branches.

Over 1.7 billion people, mostly in Africa, South Asia and Latin America, were unbanked at the end of 2017. The vast majority reside in rural areas, where it would be impractical to open a branch for each small community, and the ATM is often the most important — sometimes the only — physical point of contact between banks and customers. A strong cash culture, and government campaigns to expand access to banking services, have therefore led to a rise in off-site terminals to cater to rural populations. In Chile and Egypt, for example, financial inclusion initiatives have contributed to off-site ATMs making up close to 60 percent of all ATMs.

ATMs by location, 2017. Source: Global ATM Market and Forecasts to 2023 (courtesy RBR).

RBR also found that, faced with rising operating expenses and fewer customers visiting their branches, banks in developed markets are streamlining their branch networks and turning to off-site ATMs as a more cost-efficient customer service channel. This is particularly apparent in the Netherlands and Sweden, where the number of branches has decreased significantly over the last few years: Off-site terminals account for over 70 percent of all ATMs in both countries, as they are installed to replace closed outlets.

“Off-site ATMs can be a valuable tool both for bringing new customers into the banking system and to serve existing customers where branches are being closed,” said Rowan Berridge, who led RBR’s research. “Cash is set to remain hugely important in most markets, and the number of ATMs installed away from bank branches will increase further over the coming years.”

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