Disappearing Cash Machines: The Impact of Interchange Cuts on ATM Engineers

If you’ve found yourself walking for what seems like miles just to find a cash machine lately, the chances are that your hometown has become the latest victim to the rapid rate at which ATMs are being removed across the UK.

In fact, during a five month period in 2018 cash machines were disappearing up and down the country at the rate of roughly 300 per month. Before you begin blaming the “cashless economy”, which sees people relying less and less on cash and opting instead to use contactless cards to pay for goods, it’s worth turning your attentions to Link – the body which oversees the cash machine network in the UK.

Thanks to the decision to reduce the amount card issuers pay out, ATM operators saw their interchange rates slashed in a bid to encourage more cash machine installations in rural areas, when in fact it’s had the opposite effect. Many have been forced to have their cash machines removed due to them now being unprofitable to keep as they no longer receive a substantial payment per withdrawal. Roughly 2% of all cash machines in rural areas have been removed already, with Scotland being hit the hardest by losing nearly 3% of its ATMs.

The decision came as a shock to many industry leaders in the ATM space, with many seeing it as simply not viable and a clear route to a reduction in free-to-use cash machines. Not only does this have a devastating effect on those in rural areas that already have reduced access to cash machines, but it also creates cashless ‘deserts’. Something that can have an unprecedented effect on our economy as a whole as people are unable to access their own money.

So what are the implications of all this on the average ATM engineer and the industry as a whole? The impact made is twofold – not only will it inevitably affect engineers, but manufacturers and suppliers will also have felt the pinch in recent years.

In terms of workload: initially due to the huge demands of cash machine removals the ATM management space has seen a boom in business – but as this dies off, so can the expectation of new ATM engineer work as the numbers of machines to maintain has dramatically reduced across the country.

ATM solution providers may also find themselves with a surplus of engineers on their books and not enough work to sustain them. Just to add to the confusion, organisations would be mistaken to begin letting people go in response to the downturn in work as the industry looks to experience yet another boom in new installations due to positive steps recently taken by Link.

Since the decline, Link has recognised the risks posed by a Britain without cash machines and the negative impact of ‘ATM deserts’, and has since introduced a generous subsidy for those offering free-to-use cashpoints in rural areas to try and reverse some of the damage  the past couple of years have done to Britain’s cash machine problem.

It’s been a bumpy road for ATM operators and engineers alike with sudden surges of work followed by dry spells where there are less cash machines to service, but it looks as though it’s finally about to stabilise once more.

So what can cashpoint providers do to try and brace themselves for the rapid changes in workload? In such an uncertain market, having a flexible resource is one of the best ways to protect your organisation against the tide. Being able to dial up or dial down your pool of ATM engineers depending on the projects you have in your pipeline is a real blessing when a drought hits.

If you’re on the lookout for a flexible resourcing partner that allows you to utilise the same trusted engineers for your projects, be sure to get in touch with our Field Engineering Projects team who can supply ATM, EPoS and IT Rollout specialists at all levels.

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Dan Sholl

12th June

Industry Insight