ATM Growth, Slack in U.S., Surges Abroad

Article excerpt

LONDON -- As American banks slow their purchases of automated teller machines, institutions in Europe and Japan are picking up the pace.

The result: The United States will soon drop to third place in number of ATMs installed.

Even though the United States is the original home of the ATM, Japan has already out-stripped it in sheer numbers, with 98,500 installed as of the start of 1991 -- the latest available figures.

This compares with 83,500 in the United States and 82,000 in Europe, according to Retail Banking Research Ltd., a London-based consulting group that surveys the market every year.

Annual ATM growth in the United States - not long ago in the double digits - now stands at 4%. Meanwhile, Japan's cash-machine base is growing by 12%. And Europe, increasing at a 15% clip, is on track to pass the United States.

Newcomers Grow Faster

Why is ATM growing slowing in the United States?

Philip Williams, a consultant at Retail Banking Research, points out that the American market is mature, whereas European nations are relative newcomers to the technology and still building their networks. At the same time, financial pressures are curbing the growth of American banks

"The U.S. is approaching ATM saturation while the poor health of many American financial institutions seems to be restraining [technology] expenditures," he said.

Population Density a Factor

Japan is a separate case. "Japan has extremely populous cities, and this appears to be driving it toward installing more ATMs per head of population than other countries," he said.

His company's surveys showed the Asian nation now boasts an average of 801 ATMs for every million citizens. This compares with 333 machines per million in the United States and 304 in Britain, the other big national ATM markets.

Worldwide, ATM units totaled more than 300,000 at the beginning of 1991, an investment in hardware of about $10 billion, the research firm calculated in its survey of international trends in self-service consumer banking.

In percentage terms, Japan accounted for 32.5% of the world total, the United States 27.5%, and Europe 27.0%. The next single largest ATM market was Canada, with 3.9%. Installations in the rest of the world contributed the remaining 9.2%.

While the U.S. banking markets nowadays can't match the torrid ATM growth of rivals overseas, American manufacturers remained dominant in teller machine markets abroad, the survey found.

NCR Corp., a unit of American Telephone and Telegraph Co., accounted for 41% of all European installations and is the only maker to supply each of the 19 European countries covered in the survey. …