The rise of cryptocurrencies, contactless cards, and mobile payments has led to predictions that we are at the dawn of a cashless society. But what would a world free of physical money mean for the humble ATM?
Just over 50 years ago, at this bank in suburban London, the first automated teller machine opened to the public. And its offer of 24-hour banking revolutionised financial services and retail. There were now 3.8 million cash machines globally dispensing $13.2 trillion a year. Every second, 3,100 people withdraw more than $400,000.
While cash use may be declining in many developed economies, much of the world is tied to physical transactions, and ATMs are still an essential utility. Indeed, the number of ATMs is expected to rise to 4.3 million globally by 2020. But ATM manufacturers are preparing for a world where cash will not be as important. As many as 200 different functions can be carried out by ATMs, including paying bills, making charity donations, and paying taxes.
Meanwhile, so-called "robo-branches" will soon replace traditional High Street banks as lenders reduce the need for human tellers. ATMs are also being used by NGOs to dispense aid to refugees. Iris-scanning technology ensures the relief reaches the most needy. The future of cash machines is not dependent on a future with cash.