Marcella Scarlett, Business Reporter
National Commercial Bank (NCB) Jamaica has been talking up new technology to be introduced by the bank, which will allow its automated banking machines to read the face value of money.
But it's not the first. Jamaica National Building Society (JNBS) last year piloted an ATM that can also recognise denominations on notes fed directly into the machine. Two were installed - at the Half-Way Tree, Kingston branch; and at the JN Financial Centre at Catherine Hall, Montego Bay.
NCB's representatives have been tasked with explaining the functions of the so called 'intelligent ATM' to customers in-branch, and encouraging them to sign up for online banking so they are prepared when the service is eventually launched.
Sunday Business learned of the new project through one of the in-branch presentations.
NCB says, however, that it is not prepared to provide more specific information, so as not to give away too much information to rivals.
"We are not ready for this information to get out there as yet. These are strategies that we are exploring and they are still conversation pieces," said NCB spokeswoman Belinda Williams.
"You know our competition might just do a premature launch and we would not get the full benefit from our strategy," Williams said.
According to the in-bank tutorial, the intelligent ATM will facilitate both cash and cheque deposits, together with payment transactions, which represent the bulk of activities that continue to be carried out at a branch counter.
The machines will be able to differentiate whether a bill inserted in the machine is, say, a J$1,000 bill or just J$100. It will also be able to read the face value of cheques. Essentially, the ATM will be able to update accounts as the transaction is executed.
The ATMs deployed through the Multilink system, inclusive of NCB and other banking operations, rely on users to accurately describe or input the correct transactional value for business conducted at the machines.
Scotiabank Jamaica once offered immediate cash withdrawals against uncleared cheques lodged at its ATMs, but pulled the service several years ago to curtail its abuse. It was never reintroduced.
The type of machine to be introduced by NCB would mitigate that risk.
The multi-function/intelligent ATMs will help migrate quick transactions to the electronic system and free up bank teller lines in branches.
The bank representative said the machines will facilitate customers' transactions on foreign-exchange accounts, loan repayment, bill payment as well as cheque cashing and processing.
Particularly, customers will be able to deposit cheques drawn from certain banks and financial institutions and get value immediately, that is, either cash or credit.
"It is a strategy we are looking at and where we think banking should go in the future. We think banking should be done intelligently and most of that will be facilitated by our online platform," Williams said.
More details will be shared at a later date, she said, but in the meantime, the bank is encouraging customers to sign up for online banking.
NCB is Jamaica's largest bank by assets, but has the second-largest deposit base of J$163 billion in a market of seven commercial banking groups.
The cash-readable machines in use by JNBS - the largest mortgage bank - are made by Diebold Inc. JN's subsidiary, Management Control Systems, distributes and services Diebold machines in Jamaica and the Caribbean.
The mortgage bank said last May after the machines were commissioned that the built-in technology allows the so called 'cash recycler' ATM to detect whether bills inserted are counterfeit or real.
Dianne Smith-Sears, general manager of MC Systems, also said at the time that her company would be introducing the ATMs to its other clients in Jamaica, whom she did not name.