M&I Data Services said Friday it had signed a deal with a California company to sell Internet-linked kiosks to banks, marking the company's entry into what could become a key market.
M&I and others are betting that financial institutions, which increasingly have turned to technology to cut costs, will continue to do so. However, some experts believe consumers may rebel at the notion of a new generation of bank machines.
M&I and North Communications, of Marina del Rey, Calif., designed the kiosks for use at banks, shopping malls and other places that traditional automated teller machines are found.
Officials at M&I Friday said they did not know when the kiosks will be available in the Milwaukee area or how widespread the systems would be.
"It's too early to tell right now. (But) our customers have indicated that they are thrilled with the system," said David Labrie, a M&I Data spokesman.
Unlike ATMs, the new kiosks would allow customers to apply for home and auto loans, open checking and savings accounts, or get information on their accounts or on such things as the value of an automobile or stocks.
The program also can provide live video links between the consumer and a bank employee.
"We took a good deal of care in selecting a strategic ally in this fast-growing and vital area," M&I Data spokesman Al Dominick said.
"Banks need to do much more than just warehouse their customers' cash," said Paul Kennedy, president of North Communications, which designs, makes and runs networks of transaction kiosks. "M&I is opening worlds of new business opportunity in banking."
M&I promised that the system's security would be "airtight."
The systems could help banks save money, said Martin A. McDevitt, an analyst with Cleary Gull Reiland & McDevitt.
"Ultimately there is a cost savings. Look at what a lot of banks are doing today with electronics. . . . You eliminate the need for branches and people," McDevitt said.
Analysts and experts on banking differed over the effect of Web-linked kiosks.
"No one wants these things," said Art Gillis, a Dallas-based technology consultant for the banking industry. "Rather than hugging their customers, banks are pushing them off into an isolation chamber. The industry is trying to stretch technology beyond the consumers' needs."
Moti Yung, vice president of CertCo LLC, a division of Bankers Trust New York Corp., disagreed. Yung, in town for a discussion on electronic commerce Friday at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, said the technology was like a wave that would sweep everything before it.
"This is the future, and like it or not, more people are going to use it. The French have been using a similar phone-type system for five years already. They will use the Internet in the future because that is what the customer wants," Yung said.
M&I brings its own brand of banking software to the deal. North Communications can extend the capabilities of the Web browser used on the kiosks, Microsoft Internet Explorer, by adding touch-screen systems, video, ATM devices, laser printers, network management and security.
M&I Data Services began showing the new kiosk technology to customers in early October at its Brown Deer headquarters.
Among M&I Data's other services are home banking over the Internet, electronic funds transfer, traditional ATM network installation and management, credit, debit and smart card services.