By Maria Dromova
Thirteen years ago, ATMs were perceived as something extraordinary — being rather like magic money boxes. The first was installed in Belarus 1998, offering limited functions; you could only withdraw money or see your account balance. Of course, there were few plastic card holders anyway, as many distrusted the idea. Now, ATMs are an integral part of our lives.
Belarus’ largest bank — Belarusbank — owns a third of the three thousand machines countrywide; not long ago, it unveiled its 1,000th ATM — in Minsk’s Loshitsa residential suburb. It operates about 250 machines in the capital, in addition to another hundred in rural areas.
Sadly, residents of remote urban suburbs often lack access to ATMs; accordingly, they are now being tailored at the design stage of residential housing — as any other local infrastructure might be. “ATM use allows a bank to distribute client flow, reducing the burden on face to face personnel,” explains the Deputy Director at Belarusbank’s Calculating Centre for Plastic Cards, Gennady Sery. “Apart from ATMs, our bank boasts a wide network of info-kiosks, which primarily allow our clients to make non-cash payments; they offer a wide range of services and their number should exceed 2,000 by the end of the year.”
Mobile and Internet banking is generally seen as the way forward (over 30,000 Belarusbank clients use the latter). The bank also plans to install another 30 ATMs countrywide by late 2011. “Global recommendations indicate that a single ATM works efficiently if it services about 3,000 plastic cards. We’re focusing on this figure in developing our infrastructure,” notes Mr. Sery, adding, “Some card owners still prefer to use traditional bank offices and some use other banks’ services, so we meet this requirement.”
Belarusbank accounts for over half of the nine million plus plastic cards countrywide.