‘We’ve got cash’

FACED with numerous complaints from its customers about the lack of cash in the number of automated banking machines (ABMs) across the island, National Commercial Bank (NCB) is looking to introduce a mobile app that will provide real time updates of the status of the machines.

Danielle Cameron Duncan, vice-president of payments and digital channels at NCB, says the mobile app should be in place next year.

Responding to follow-up questions from the Jamaica Observer, NCB added that, “The challenges affecting ABMs recently, including the occasions of shortage of cash, primarily stem from the various attacks on external service providers while they are servicing the machines. These security concerns have significantly impacted the ability to maintain optimal cash replenishment schedules.

“In response, we are actively collaborating with our service providers and security teams to address these issues and enhance the safety measures for our customers and the personnel involved in servicing the machines.”

NCB was addressing a vexing issue for many of its customers, which also sparked a response from the Jamaica Bankers Association (JBA).

In a release late last week, the JBA said there are more than 880 ABMs islandwide which are owned and operated by its members.

“Regrettably, over the last few months there has been a decline in the availability of cash due to an increasing number of violent criminal incidents targeting ABMs. These incidents have ranged from the vandalism of the ABMs and vestibules, to theft and unlawful removal of the machines, to robbery and attempted armed robbery of cash-in-transit bags from third-party service providers.

“The criminal attacks have impacted not only banking services at our ABMs but money transfer and remittance businesses, gas stations, and supermarkets as well. The brazenness and viciousness of the assaults raised for us, serious concerns regarding the safety of our employees, the customers whom we serve, and the Jamaican public at large,” said the JBA.

It said it has taken firm action to mitigate the threats, including closer collaborations with service providers, law enforcement, and other authorities to guide operational decisions and implement measures to bolster and enhance security protocols.

“Our aim is to expeditiously increase the accessibility of our ABMs and restore the availability of cash to improved levels while we balance the impact of the new security measures against the ongoing threats to our ability to service the machines,” added the JBA.

The association said it is working collectively to address consumers’ concerns through: deliberate efforts and investments to redeploy decommissioned ABMs from remote areas to more secure sites such as police stations; increase ABM deployments in key districts to fill existing demand gaps; and employ the use of revised operating plans to improve cash access and fault resolutions.

The JBA added that there will be an increase in monitoring and coordination with law enforcement to safeguard service providers, improve incident response times, and reinforce ABM vestibule infrastructures and protection methods.

“While we continue to work to restore full service levels across our ABM networks we wish to remind customers that as an alternative to cash, debit cards can be used to make purchases at more than 19,000 point-of-sale terminals islandwide. We also encourage members of the public to utilise online banking or mobile apps to execute service and bill payments, transfers, and mobile phone top-ups,” added the JBA.

In the meantime, NCB has reported that all of its intelligent ABMs (iABMs) have been upgraded to accept and dispense the recently introduced polymer banknotes.

The bank said that the upgrade was completed at the end of October and signals a key achievement under its efficiency, governance, and customer experience (EGC) framework, which aims to transform the customer experience delivered at all its service points.

According to Cameron Duncan, “With the enhancements and others made over the last few months, customers will experience a marked improvement in ABM availability. We expect these upgrades to significantly bolster the performance of our ABM fleet and deliver improved reliability and convenience to our customers — which is a top priority for us.”

She added that NCB continues to expand and fortify what is already the largest ABM network in the island with five new iABMs — which can both accept deposits and dispense cash — and replaced 60 regular cash-dispenser ABMs which were at the end of their life cycle.

“These additions bring NCB’s fleet up to 141 iABMs and 157 regular cash-dispenser ABMs, giving Jamaicans access to close to 300 ABMs islandwide,” said Cameron Duncan.

“Several of the machines which were previously removed due to security concerns are being strategically redeployed to new locations to further enhance service availability for customers. We are committed to ensuring that our customers have access to their funds whenever and wherever they need them.

“We truly appreciate the patience and support of our customers throughout this transition period. We are very excited about the positive new developments with our fleet and look forward to delivering an improved banking experience across our modernised ABM network,” added Cameron Duncan.