During my high school days, I remember a bank customer could only access banking services at his/her bank branch. By the time Equity Bank was entering the banking sector, most banks had connected their branches such that every branch was as good as the customer’s bank branch. Today, the number of bank services that can only be offered at a customer’s bank branch are very few. In some banks, there are no services that can’t be offered to a customer in any random branch.
The above is not news. What’s news is that interoperability of a bank branches is extending to inter bank connectivity. This started by the introduction of major credit/debit cards like VISA that have today allowed bank customers to access their monies from any ATM no matter which bank owns the ATM, as long as the bank ATM offers VISA card services.
Then came in PesaPoint, an independent ATM that does not require any bank customer to use any special debit or credit card to withdraw money. So long as your bank has partnered with PesaPoint, you can use your standard ATM card to access your funds at any of the several PesaPoint ATMs across the country. Kachwanya narrated an incident that showed how PesaPoint ATMs can come in handy in situations where your bank’s ATM are either down or dry of cash.
But PesaPoint cannot be of much help especially given the fact that their number and distribution still cannot match all ATMs by all banks in a given region or nationally. For example, you are more likely to get to another bank’s ATM before you can identify where a PesaPoint ATM is located, making a bank customer to yearn for a possibility where he could just walk into any ATM and access his funds no matter the bank that owns that ATM.
And that wish is not fictional, at least not in Nigeria and Uganda. In Nigeria, leading banks such as Ecobank, Callstanbic, and Skyebank use Interswitch switching technology to provide their customers with the ability to use any member ATMs and POSes to either withdraw money or make payments. For example, if John is a customer with Ecobank, John can still use his Ecobank ATM card to withdraw his money from an ATM owned by Skyebank, without the need to use any credit or debit card like VISA or even the Verve card by Interswitch.
The other lucky citizens are Ugandans who have over 130 ATMs nationwide that they can access at will. Ugandan banks that use Interswitch switching technology are Cairo International Bank, Centenary Rural Development Bank, Commercial Bank of Africa, DFCU Bank, Finance Trust Bank, Global Trust Bank, Guaranty Trust Bank (formerly FINA Bank), FINCA, Imperial Bank, Opportunity Bank, Orient Bank, Post Bank and Unfited Bank for Africa.
The ability to access an ATM of any bank is many times better than deployment of independent but universal ATM points like PesaPoint. This is because almost every bank has deployed a number of ATMs across the country, and in any major town in Kenya there are, on average, at least three different banks that have offer ATM services. If banks in Kenya were also members of Interswitch, that would mean that their customers could always experience convenience even at times when their specific ATMs are down, or even when access to another bank’s ATM is easier due to distance or traffic.
Since Interswitch bought Paynet, as a bank user I can only pray that the interoperability of my banks can be hastened so that next time I do not have to travel past an ATM nearby only to queue in my bank’s ATM far away in the middle of town.