The convenience of accessing cash at an automatic teller machine (ATM) — in any city, at any time — has come to be expected.

In efforts to keep customers happy, banking institutions are continually creating new ways to serve their customers better and faster. And companies like Raleigh-based Nexus Software make it possible for financial institutions to push services to customers at virtually any touch point.

“Banks profit from knowing what their customers are doing with the bank and by using that profile to offer additional services,” says Robert Usner, director of Product Planning and Marketing for Nexus Software, Inc. “Their service approach needs to have the same customer focus regardless of delivery. That is viable today.”

Check cashing, money order issuance, event ticketing, bill payments, and phone card recharging will soon be choices at the cash machine. These advanced transactions and Web-enabled banking are coming up next at the ATM. Security features, such as facial recognition and iris scanning, are also rolling out to properly identify customers.

“A drive to open solutions will make it easier to justify the expense of providing such feature-rich banking options,” insists Usner. “Nexus has been a consistent driver of open standards. That’s our mark. This way no matter which vendor offers the best solution for a financial institution’s particular need, the device will connect seamlessly with all of its other systems. No one else can offer this range of device support regardless of vendor.”

Banks and middleware

Typical of early technology, many devices (including ATMs) shipped with vendor specific software applications that did not necessarily work in tandem, and were inflexible to emerging technology.

“Banks are coming to the realization that they have to come around to middleware because of the number of devices,” says Usner.

“Middleware is necessary to simplify a complicated transaction process,” explains Usner. “It allows timely and accurate communication across all applications and devices.”

Even the most basic transaction at an ATM requires communication between many devices to work — although it is transparent to the user. Nexus Software, a market leader of open system middleware products, found its niche within the banking industry back in 1985 during a project that helped migrate banks from an OS2 platform to Windows. Realizing that none of the banks’ devices were interoperable, Nexus set out to pave the way for XFS, an open system standard for ATMs. Today, its successor ActiveXFS is the most advanced open systems software and all major bank device vendors support XFS.

“The real innovations as we go forward are not just advanced transaction types,” says Usner. “But, affinity branding and customer focused behavior at the ATM. Rather than having generic account and transaction screens, the ATM will only show content and transaction options that are applicable to the current user according to their preferences. Each ATM then becomes MyATM.”

“Today, the open systems market is in its infancy,” Usner says. “We work with partners and VARs to build up an arsenal of solutions that can go to marketplace.”

A mid-May partnership with Infonox of Santa Clara, CA, is expected to speed up the transition to Web-enabled banking in an ATM environment. Infonox’s Active Payment Platform, combined with Nexus Software’s INvolve product, will allow customers to view and pay bills at an out-of-town ATM, using the touch screen. To date, the Nexus platform reaches 89 countries, 580 banks and about 90,000 teller stations, ATM’s and kiosks as it continues to build upon a base of 20 resellers and 15 distributors.

Profile Box: Nexus Software at-a-glance: