Engaging Customers

Bright Message—Avidia Bank employees get excited and ready to promote the bank’s cardless ATM service.
Bright Message—Avidia Bank employees get excited and ready to promote the bank’s cardless ATM service.

Massachusetts bank rolls out cardless ATM cash access

By Cheryl Winokur Munk

Engaging customers is becoming a more nettlesome issue these days, especially as digital-banking channels proliferate and branch foot traffic declines. To be sure, there’s no one-size-fits-all model when it comes to connecting digitally with distracted, disconnected customers.

Some community banks are rolling out market-leading technology services and programs in the hopes of driving customer engagement, while others are using technology as a communications tool to boost engagement.

In this first of a three-part series of articles, Independent Banker looks at community banks that are deploying digital services and channels to achieve the near nirvana of close customer engagement. First up this month is Avidia Bank, a $1.2 billion-asset community bank in Hudson, Mass., that has rolled out a cardless ATM-access service.

To draw in customers, Avidia Bank has been intently focused over the past several years on rolling out various mobile offerings. Last summer the bank introduced a smartphone cash access at its ATMs. Access through the bank’s mobile banking app, the Cardless Cash service, allows its customers to scan a QR Code on their mobile smartphone and securely withdraw money at an ATM—without swiping or inserting a debit card.

For some cardless ATM banking systems, the same outcome can be accomplished using near-field communication technology, but Avidia Bank doesn’t offer that feature, at least not yet.

Although smartphone cash access at ATMs hasn’t yet been widely adopted across the banking industry, the service at Avidia Bank has already proved extremely popular with customers.

One of the keys to the bank’s success is the way the new service was promoted over social media leading up to its release, according to Katelin Cwieka, a marketing specialist at Avidia Bank. Cwieka says the use of Twitter, Instagram and the live video-streaming app Periscope made a real difference in customer adoption rates. The effort generates a worldwide buzz over various digital channels.

“We can’t jump at every flashy thing that goes by, but we made a good business case to adopt this technology.”
—CarrieAnne Cormier, Avidia Bank

During the service’s first month, Avidia Bank’s mobile-banking enrollment jumped 13 percent. Although the bank hasn’t yet delved into how many new customers it has gained as a result of the offered service, its mobilebanking enrollment has steadily increased since then. About 60 percent of the bank’s customers now use its mobile app.

But Avidia Bank’s decision to adopt the cardless ATM service involved a calculated chance, says CarrieAnne Cormier, the bank’s assistant vice president of retail operations and strategy. She says the bank went through a lot of internal debate before deciding to roll with the cardless cash service. Some staff members felt the bank might be better off introducing a less experimental service, but ultimately the decision was made to run with the QR code-based technology as a trial.

That turned out to be a smart decision in unexpected ways. For starters, Avidia Bank had thought only younger customers would be interested in the service. However, data have shown that customers on the go between the ages of 17 and 79 were big users. The average user was 41 years old.

“We can’t jump at every flashy thing that goes by, but we made a good business case to adopt this technology,” Cormier says.


Cheryl Winokur Munk is a financial writer in New Jersey.