Winnipeg rolls out Canada

In business, the word “first” can carry a lot of weight. When a business is initially the first to implement a program or a technology, it is seen as cutting edge and maybe even a little bit renegade. Later on, the tag of being first implies a given amount of experience and knowledge, or at least this is what those at Winnipeg’s Decibel Credit Union hope its members and competitors believe.

In May, the Decibel Credit Union was the first financial institution in the country to go live with an NT-based ATM. This was also the first NT-based Aptra Advance NDC Solution powered by an ATM to go live in North America and the first browser-based technology implemented since a 1998 pilot, according to NCR Corp. That’s a lot of firsts.

According to Dale Thompson, the Credit Union Central of Manitoba’s Winnipeg-based director of technology infrastructure, the rollover to the NT-based ATM should prove to be a competitive edge.

“We’re hoping it will give us an advantage, in that our customers and members will prefer to use our ATMs because of the way it presents the information to them,” Thompson said.

Nick Hames, vice-president of the financial solutions division for NCR in Toronto, believes that the implementation of the new ATM in Winnipeg is a step closer to making the ATM a fulfilment channel.

“[On] the technical side, it makes software distribution easier and software updates can virtually be done on the fly because of the use of NT and the technology there,” Hames explained. “To the end consumer, you’ll see friendlier screens than the familiar green screens or standard colour screens. There’s a linkage to the future to things that the Credit Union’s doing with their PC banking channel. Rather than develop it twice like we would have had to in the past – once for the PC banking channel and once for ATMs – now we can start to leverage development across channels. Going with that, you’ll begin to see specific advertising messages, first on a credit union level, so that you’ll be able to target messages specifically to members of that credit union. The long range plan is to take it down to a market of one, so messages are targeted specifically to that consumer.”

This sort of customization with the ATMs goes beyond advertising, as they have the capability of changing screen preferences based on the card holder, making the experience similar to that of online banking.

Penny Gillespie, a senior industry analyst at Giga Information Group in Cambridge, Mass., sees this movement towards browser-based technology within the banking industry as a natural progression, noting that Internet banking is the lowest cost denominator channel.

“There’s a movement underway towards more sophisticated technology. This is another example of that.” Gillespie said. “This is part of the concept of value added service. It’s an attempt to bring Internet banking to those households without Internet access.”

According to Thompson, the installation of the new ATMs was as smooth as one could hope for.

“We had a lot of help from NCR with this,” Thompson explained. “It probably took a couple of months of our time to test it and get a few of the bugs out, and then deploy it to the pilot credit union. We had to change a part of the hardware as well, but it took less than an hour to flip it over from the existing operating system to the NT. Everything was pre-built. We just slipped in the new PC core, a few configuration parameters and it was up and running.”

Currently, the NT-based ATM is at one location, but the Credit Union Central of Manitoba, the provincial trade association and central banking facility for Manitoba credit unions, plans to roll out the new technology throughout all of its locations. This means that Winnipeg will be home to over 150 of these ATMs over the next year and a half.