Sparking a Trend in ATM Technology and Innovation

Spark ATM Systems, South Africa’s leading independent ATM deployer, won five awards at the tt100 Business Innovations Awards. The company also proudly added the Fintech Award of the 2020 Africa Tech Week Awards to its trophy cabinet.

The tt100 Business Innovation Awards programme was launched in 1991 to create awareness of the role of technology and innovation in South Africa, while the Africa Tech Week Awards celebrates innovators, leaders and game changers who represent the best in the African tech landscape.

“We are delighted that the tt100 awards reflect all the segments in which we offer customer solutions,” says Marc Sternberg, managing director of Spark ATM Systems. “To be recognised for the management of people, systems and technology, as well as sustainability, confirms that we have our fingers on all the pulses that are required for business success. The greatest honour was receiving the Minister’s Award for Overall Excellence, which reaffirms our values of integrity, passion and excellence.”

2020 Was not the first year Spark ATM Systems shone at the tt100 Business Innovation Awards. In 2009 it was a finalist in four emerging enterprise categories and won in two, namely Excellence in the Management of People and the Director General’s Award for Overall Excellence.

In 2011, Spark ATM Systems won the Management of Technology award in the established enterprises category, and in 2012 it brought home the overall Sustainability Award.

“It is most gratifying that 10 years after our first awards, we can still impress the tt100 panel,” says Sternberg. “They recognised us early on and we have continued to shine throughout our growth cycle from an emerging enterprise into a large company. tt100 recognition at various stages along this journey supported the goals and objectives we had set ourselves when Spark ATM Systems was established. These objectives included fintech, which is why we are immensely proud of the Africa Tech Week award. All these award strengthen our resolve to continue breaking new ground in tech innovation and customer service alike.”

Spark ATM Systems was founded in 2005, and today owns and manages a network of more than 4 300 independent ATM installations across the country. Its ever-growing network of ATMs can be found in every conceivable type of bank branch, retail, hospitality, leisure and convenience location for one simple reason – consumers expect them wherever they need cash, and merchants recognise their many benefits.

The company is owned by Cardtronics, the world’s largest ATM deployer, who brings global expertise and unprecedented financial backing to Spark’s operations in South Africa. Spark ATM Systems, in turn, has grown into the technology development hub for Cardtronics’ operations in North America and Europe.

In 2013, the business took the view that it could develop and run its own switch and monitoring software. “It was nothing short of audacious,” says Sternberg, “given that it had never been done before. But today, the SparkPro and SparkLab suite of in-house developed tools runs our entire business.” The tools have been exported to other Cardtronics territories and were instrumental in market analyses done in Spain and Germany.

Employing the power of machine learning and data analytics, the SparkLab suite of tools allows Spark ATM to make real-time decisions driven by the underlying profit potential of every ATM site. The data-rich technology also guides new site identification and provides the sales team with all the data needed to close a deal.

The sales process was further enhanced and accelerated in 2020 with the launch of the Mockingbird app. With this ground-breaking technology, unique to Spark ATM Systems, augmented reality (AR) functionality is used to drop a proposed new ATM, with its signage, into an image of the site in real time. This allows the owner to see what the installation would look like before it is done.

Spark ATM Systems is also known for having revolutionised the merchant-cashed ATM service model, which continues to grow as it fills a gap in an otherwise under-serviced market. Classed as an essential service under Covid-19 regulations, these ATMs are proving themselves to be recession busters with savings and turnover benefits adding between R15 000 and R50 000 to merchants’ cash flow, depending on the size of the business.

Casting an eye to the future, Sternberg says that within the next five years, Spark ATM Systems will own and operate 30% of all ATMs in South Africa. Supporting this vision is its recently established capability to assemble its own ATMs on home soil.

In the next year, Spark ATM Systems will launch the exciting new Touchline ATM. Assembled in South Africa, it has a Linux operating system and touchscreen functionality that is state-of-the-art technology.

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