There are only three ATM deployers in Estonia, of which none are independent. The largest one is Swedbank followed by SEB Pank and Danske Bank. According to the April 2018 Banking Automation Bulletin, the number of ATMs has been decreasing since 2011, falling by 14% in 2016. This decline is explained by banks’ need to rationalize costs and by an apparent drop in cash withdrawals, or at least that’s how banks justify this change.
Strangely, data expose a different trend. Although there is a definite growth in cashless payments in Estonia, with debit cards being by far the preferred alternative payment method (82% for debit versus 17% for credit), cash continues to play an important role in this Baltic state.
The numbers speak for themselves:
- Average cash withdrawal values grew by 5% in 2016
- The value of cash withdrawals has been rising since 2010
- Total cash withdrawal value grew by 1% between 2015 and 2016
The question is: how can banks defend ATM closures when Estonians still use cash on a regular basis? The need to rationalize costs is certainly a legitimate reason for dismantling or moving certain ATMs to locations with a potentially higher demand. Nevertheless, the government should be careful to monitor that any further ATM closures are justified and not part of a larger, interest-driven scheme to make cash less accessible to citizens and therefore impose cashless payments.