Wells Fargo & Co. is moving ahead with the deployment of a new device from NCR Corp. that allows both checks and cash to be deposited in the same slot of an ATM.
The San Francisco banking company's pilot program began in January with 38 units in the Boulder, Colo., area. Wells said its test of the devices, which NCR calls its Scalable Deposit Module, far exceeded its expectations.
"The only surprise was, we were really pleased with the results," said Jonathan Velline, Wells' senior vice president for ATM banking and store strategy. "We were getting ready to invest in Colorado. We had been working with NCR. No one else had used [this device] before. And that's why we did a pilot."
Wells will be rolling out about 200 of the mixed-media modules across Colorado at the beginning of November. All the Wells automated teller machines in Colorado are slated to have this function by the end of the year.
Wells Fargo has been working with NCR on the design of this new piece of hardware over the past 18 months.
Through this collaboration, "we made it better," Velline said. "It's simpler, more elegant, allowing the customer to touch one button, select a deposit, and then they put all their items — a stack of bills, a stack of checks" into the ATM, Velline said.
Whatever the combination, "they put it all in the machine, and they are done," he said.
Wells Fargo ATMs run the company's own custom software. This approach allows some features to be made available across multiple hardware providers' machines. For example, in June Wells began allowing most of its customers to decline paper receipts and receive them instead in digital form within their online banking view. That system works on machines Wells uses from NCR, Diebold Inc. and Wincor Nixdorf AG.
NCR's hardware can accept up to 50 items at once, including combinations of checks and cash. NCR said its device cuts the time it takes to make envelope-free deposits into an ATM in half.
Wells' ATMs will be able to accept only about 30 pieces of paper at a time in order to standardize its ATM bulk acceptance across the machines it uses from multiple manufacturers. Wells would not say what percentage of its ATMs come from NCR, nor in which other regions it uses NCR machines.
NCR said Monday that it will begin offering the Scalable Deposit Module to all of its ATM customers.
"From a consumer experience, I don't have to worry" about having separate slots for checks and cash, said Bob Tramontano, NCR's vice president of marketing. "You don't have to stand at the ATM" wasting time figuring it out, he said.
In past implementations, customers had to either put cash and checks in separate slots, submit them one at a time, or deposit them in an envelope. Most check-imaging ATMs today accept multiple items in bulk.
NCR's new module reads handwriting, separates bundles and allows instant deposits.
NCR's module resembles technology also offered by Diebold and Wincor Nixdorf, but each manufacturer's system has slight variations.
For example, Diebold's bulk deposit system has separate cash and check acceptors. It said the use of separate slots prevents jamming.
"[NCR] will say it's all about the user experience, so you don't need separate devices," said Bob Meara, a senior analyst in Celent's banking group. "But they are just two different ways to skin a cat. In both cases, they are overwhelmingly more interesting than the deposit envelope idea. That was kind of a bad one. But, back then, that was the only one that folks had."
Meara said that so far, only second-tier banks have been holding out on more modern self-service machines. "I'm not quite sure why," he said.
Larger banks — such as Wells Fargo and Bank of America Corp., along with smaller credit unions — have more rapidly adopted modern self-service technology.
These modern ATMs learn and adapt as customers use them, Meara said. They learn "what your preferences are. You define them once. And that's increasingly common, and will be more and more common in the ATM channel as banks figure out how to best service customers."