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All the banks are now busy reviewing the security arrangements at their ATMs in the wake of the much publicized attack on a customer in Bangalore. Till recently, the decision to post a guard at an ATM depended on a bank’s perception about the risks to its assets/cash in that location. But now, banks need to look for new guidelines as the customers also needed to be protected. Various banks are in the process of roping in more security agencies to get guards posted at all their ATMs.

1One challenge with posting guards is that sometimes the guards could be absent. And there are occasions when guards are drunk or asleep. Banks need to work with security service providers to ensure continuous presence of guards. Many have shared the view that given the number of unmanned off-site ATMs, banks should not be made liable for the entire security. This brings into question the role of the police? And even if banks shoulder the responsibility, the cost will ultimately be passed on to customers. With over a lakh ATMs across the country, many of them offsite, banks are facing a huge challenge.

Banking Frontiers asked a few concerned people to share their thoughts on the issue.

V. Babu, Chief Nodal Officer, CashTree Networks, says the Bangalore incident will be advantageous to security agencies and surveillance systems. “For service providers and banks, this incident and the following compliance requirement add up the cost to a great extent including insurance clauses to pay damages to customers. Existing contracts may have to be reworked by both to take into account the above.

Insurance companies are also at an advantage as their business will go up. White label ATM costs may go up. It looks like that RBI may not allow multiple ATMs in one room as this will increase the risk to customers.”

Capt L.K. Singh, DGM, Security, Bank of India feels it is important to have a full time man guard at all the ATMs. Electronic security also plays an important role, says he, adding the perfect mix of both is required to balance the cost factor for ATMs. “The man guard has to be well equipped with the necessary requirements. We have taken an urgent call for a meeting of security and guard providers and a decision has been taken to man all the ATMs in Karnataka state compulsorily.”

Col Sarvanjeet Singh of Ratnakar Bank is of the view that man guarding is not a good solution for ATM security. Police surveillance or electronic means can be helpful compared to a normal man guard. “Electronic means can give better results if deployed in a right manner. But it is an expensive option and for small size banks it is not affordable,” he says.

Col Singh is also of the opinion that considering the growth of ATMs, the solution can be to have an open ATM. The presence of ATMs should be in an open area such as malls, where people moves around. But the ATMs which are in far flung areas should be guarded properly with man guard and electronic means together, he adds.

Brig Manoharan Venkataraman of Punjab National Bank recommends certain things considering the security aspect from the point of view of a customer of a bank whose life is exposed to threat while transacting at an ATM. He has the following suggestions: (i) There should be only one ATM machine in one enclosure. Keeping more than one machine compromises and undermines safety. (ii) ATMs which are located in sparsely populated suburban areas of any city or in rural areas should close down after closing hours of the bank. (iii) All banks should advise their customers -through SMS, email and news papers – not to visit ATMs alone in wee hours, late night, etc. (iv) Deploying a security guard, whatever be the cost benefit implication, is not the ideal solution. Please remember, human being is the weakest link in any chain of activity. The caretakers / guards posted at these ATMs are neither physically fit, nor mentally alert and trained, nor motivated nor decently paid. ATMs do not generate very high revenue to the concerned banks as it is an alternative delivery channel meant to ease the customer’s life as well as to decongest the branches. and (v) ATMs considered more vulnerable from crime point of view should be linked to a central remote video monitoring system on 24×7 basis. This is less expensive than deploying a guard round the clock.”

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