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Banks promise more cash machines will open across Belgium
More cash machines, or ATMs, will open across Belgium as the country's major banks have pledged to accelerate the rollout of new "neutral" cash dispensers.
The joint venture is called Batopin (Belgian ATM OPtimization INitiative) and was set up by the ING, BNP, Belfius and KBC.
The ATMs are intended to meet demand for cash – from vulnerable elderly residents in particular – amid a general banking industry trend of closing physical locations.
As more services and therefore customers move towards online banking rather than a visit to a branch, banks are closing down locations. The result is some people who want or need to visit a physical branch sometimes have to travel great distances to do so.
Batopin plans to speed up the deployment of its "neutral" cash dispensers, meaning ATMs not affiliated with or limited to the customers of a particular bank.
The group’s CEO Jeroen Ghysel says the plan is to open one new cash point per working day over the next two years.
“The main difficulty is finding a suitable location for the vending machines,” Ghysel said.
“We have already selected 125 additional locations, but it takes an average of six to seven months to obtain all the permits, carry out the fitting-out and safety work and put the machine into service.”
To speed up the process, Batopin plans to send more people into the field and work more closely with local authorities.
The objective is to install around 2,500 ATMs in 950 locations by the end of 2025, a development which, according to Ghysel, should meet Belgians' need for cash.
According to a recent study by the European Central Bank (ECB), Belgians are the most dissatisfied in Europe with the lack of availability of cash.