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In the wake of the economic crisis, Paul Volcker called automated teller machines the last financial innovation that improved society. A decade later, their popularity is slipping.
The number of ATMs around the world fell for the first time last year as banks closed branches and redirected resources toward digital payments, consulting firm RBR said in a study released Monday.
Declines in four of the world’s five largest markets — China, the U.S., Japan and Brazil — drove the 1% drop in ATMs in 2018. In the fifth, India, “growth slowed considerably,” London-based RBR said.
Bank customers are increasingly turning to their mobile phones for routine financial services, forcing banks to rethink the balance between physical and digital strategies.
JPMorgan Chase & Co., the biggest U.S. bank, cut back its branches by 2% last year while earmarking $10.8 billion for technology.
The lender saw a 5% increase in active digital customers, and an 11% gain in active mobile customers.
While the ATM count worldwide has fallen for the first time, the shift away from the machines isn’t a new phenomenon.
Bank of America Corp. cut back on its ATMs in 2012, and JPMorgan did the same in 2015. Their decline could hurt makers such as NCR Corp. and Diebold Nixdorf Inc.
Still, not every year will see a drop like last year’s. Growth in ATMs in developing markets will slow the decline, according to RBR. The firm expects the number of bank machines globally to fall just 0.6% in the next six years.
“Financial inclusion initiatives continue to bolster ATM growth in developing markets across Asia-Pacific, the Middle East and Africa and Latin America,” RBR said in a statement.