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Biometrics-enabled ATMs have a key role to play in promoting more secure retail environments and enhancing accessibility to financial services in South Africa. That’s the word from Patience Rolls, Executive Head: Cash & ATMs at EasyPay Cash, one of the automated cash management solutions offerings at Cash Connect, and part of Lesaka Technologies Inc.

She says that ATMs are a fixture in many retail outlets, offering convenience and efficiency to customers and retailers alike. They allow consumers to access cash—which accounts for nine out of ten transactions, according to BankservAfrica — easily and at a low cost. Consumers can get cash at the same place they shop, without incurring additional transportation costs.

“There has been a shift to online shopping and digital payments among some consumers, enabled by technology which our company supports. But there are also many people who still prefer to use cash. It’s essential to streamline and digitalise the experience for these customers rather than forcing them into alternatives which don’t suit their needs,” says Rolls.

For retailers installing a smart retail ATM recycler, built to SABS Category 4 standards, is like putting the bank in their store. Retailers don’t need to leave their premises to manually bank their cash to get value in their bank account. Retailers not only reduce their risk but can also earn a rebate from each successful cardholder cash withdrawal.

Yet despite the financial services sector’s success in reducing ATM crime through educational campaigns, ATM fraud schemes such as card swopping, card skimming and Lebanese loop (use of a device which blocks the ATM's card slot so any inserted card is apparently retained by the machine) are still commonplace. The victims of these crimes are often the most vulnerable members of society.

The success of such fraudulent schemes depends on the criminal’s ability to get their hands on the victim’s card (or a cloned version) and their PIN code. Biometrics can eliminate this vulnerability by replacing PIN code authentication with a unique physical characteristic of the cardholder, such as their voice, iris or fingerprints, says Rolls.

Reducing the risks of lost, forgotten and stolen PINs

Biometrics like fingerprints are linked to a single individual, unlike a password, which can be used without authorisation. Fingerprints are the biometrics authentication option of choice in South Africa because fingerprint scanners are accurate, robust and highly fraud resistant. They are a proven and mature technology that has been used for a range of use cases for years, says Rolls. 

EasyPay Everywhere ATMs pioneered the use of fingerprint biometrics for child grant payments and has deployed fingerprint biometric solutions for all customers since 2007, with a special focus on the illiterate, differently abled groups, the elderly and small business merchants. EasyPay Everywhere customers can use their fingerprints to draw cash, apply for loans, update their personal details, update their insurance policies and more at an EasyPay Cash ATM. 

“We enrol all 10 fingers of customers onto a biometric reader system, so that the customer can simply use a different finger if their print isn’t recognised,” says Rolls. “Customers are empowered to go to an ATM and be able to transact without using a PIN number, so they’re less vulnerable to criminal tactics such as shoulder surfing and card skimming. They also don’t need to worry about forgetting their PIN numbers.”

EasyPay Everywhere has deployed thousands of ATMs in retail environments nationwide. This brings financial services to the doorstep of some 1.4 million EasyPay Everywhere clients, many of whom are social grants recipients living in remote or rural areas and otherwise financially excluded people. Such services are key for the 47% of South Africans who rely on grants for their living. 

A more efficient retail environment 

Cash Connect, a member of the Connect Group, offers robust automated cash management as part of a portfolio of fintech solutions. EasyPay Cash-branded ATM recyclers are a key part of its ‘best-of-both worlds’ offering. The EasyPay Cash ATM Recycler an all-in-one retail cash vault, dispenser, and recycler, enabling cashiers to deposit cash-on-site and customers to fulfil banking services from one device.

Because the ATM acts as a recycler, the retailer can minimise cash-in-transit (CIT) visits and reduce cash processing costs. In addition, it enables retailers to earn rebates from each successful cash withdrawal to potentially cover the monthly rental of the device. The EasyPay Cash ATM Recycler is designed specifically to accept bulk cashier deposits quickly.

The biometric functionality enables cashiers to cash-and-dash, allowing for quick and seamless cash deposits, and it also increases accountability amongst staff when making cash drops. Once a retailer deposits cash into their cash vault or ATM recycler, Cash Connect guarantees the funds in the retailer’s bank account on the same day or next day, with an immediate risk transfer to streamline daily cash handling.

“Our biometric solutions make EasyPay Cash ATMs safer and easier to use—a gamechanger for security and efficiency in retail environments,” says Rolls. “EasyPay Everywhere customers can use their biometrics instead of PINs. Retailers benefit from reduced the cost and risk of handling cash, while providing a valuable service to their customers.”