The Premier ATM Network: 1982-1992

Article excerpt

THE PREMIER ATM NETWORK

How time flies when you're building the largest shared ATM network in the world. It seems like only yesterday we were trying to figure out how we were going to interface the different computer systems of 26 major banks across the country into one smooth-running, well-oiled ATM network that stretched from coast to coast.

But, it was 10 years ago. A decade. A tenth of a century. And it was in a world of technology that hardly resembles the one that exists today. As the first decade of the Plus System [R] network comes to a close, there are over 60,000 Plus System [R] ATMs in service and more than 170 million plastic cards carrying the distinctive Plus System [R] logo. Well over 125 million transactions will be processed in 1991 alone through the Plus System [R] switch. It must be working!

But all of this didn't just happen. It took a lot of effort, a little luck, a vision of the future, and significant contributions by proprietary and sponsored member financial institutions across the country and around the world. This is the story of a success. And cooperation. As we celebrate our 10th anniversary, we'd like you to join us in remembering all that has been involved in making PLUS [R] the premier ATM network.

The shared, member-owned Plus System, Inc. that exists today was formed on April 1, 1982. But that was not where the story began. For that, we have to go back to the days when banks were just starting to install automated teller machines. Sometimes they worked. Sometimes they didn't. Early seventies. Remember?

The whole idea of these machines was to help reduce lobby traffic, extend hours for customers, reduce costs and provide added value as a competitive edge. Good ideas. Customers could get cash from their accounts, check their balances, and make deposits using these early ATM machines, which came complete with paper tape transaction records. But soon, every bank had one, customers couldn't use anyone else's, so it all became a wash. Even an added expense.

About this time, Rocky Mountain BankCard System (RMBCS), a subsidiary of Colorado National Bank (CNB) of Denver, was issuing and processing credit cards. RMBCS owned and operated its own computer system, which had been developed specifically for it. Expanding this system to accommodate ATM transaction processing was a natural. All of the technology and experience was in place. It wasn't long before CNB was utilizing this technology to drive their first ATM machine which was in the bank lobby.

By 1975, practically every bank of any consequence had ATMs. Most states permitted branch banking which meant a certain degree of convenience for their own customers. But in Colorado, we didn't enjoy the convenience of branching. Being a unit bank state meant that customers were often inconvenienced if they were not close to the bank office when they wanted to do their banking.

At that time, D. Dale Browning and his colleague Denny D. Dumler were the senior officers at RMBCS. They conceived an idea which would make banking more convenient in Colorado. Why not hook up with their partner in RMBCS, Central Bank of Denver and share both banks' ATM machines - a unique offering for customers of both banks.

After all, we had the technology to do it. In the EFT business, this was an exciting concept, the genesis of what has become a giant industry.

In very little time, arrangements were in place to share. Two machines. Two banks. One problem. What to call it? CNB and Central needed a name they could both use to indicate that the ATMs of both banks could be accessed by their respective customers. A contest among employees turned up the name Plus System.[R] The name was adopted because it sounded classy and was short and to the point ... easy to remember. We liked it. And thus the Plus System[R] name was coined.

A unique, distinctive, identifiable mark was designed to be placed on the machines. …

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