The unbanked consumer has gotten a lot of play lately. Self-service and retail partnerships involving Coinstar Inc., TIO Networks, Wal-Mart and Fiserv, to name a few, have made news in recent weeks as the companies go after the growing cash-preferred consumer segment, estimated to number 40 million U.S. households.
Not to be left out, and enjoying a fresh infusion of capital after its acquisition by Korean holding company Eltna last year, Tranax Technologies Inc. has spent the first half of 2009 redoubling its focus on self-service and kiosk applications for the retail vertical, all with the cash-preferred market in mind.
"It's the nature of self-service, and especially financial self-service," said Wes Dunn, director of business development for California-based Tranax. "Absolutely, we realize that relevance and the opportunity for our ISOs and for retailers."
The company focused on that opportunity at its Dallas sales office Aug. 19 during a one-day seminar designed to drum up awareness of its partnerships with providers of self-service money-transfer, bill-payment and check-cashing solutions.
At the meeting, Dunn spoke at length about Tranax' renewed philosophy of "letting the solutions dictate how we build the product," and alluded to a greater flexibility and quicker go-to-market capabilities due to Eltna's ownership and a relationship with sister company Hantel.
Throughout the event, Tranax brought in representatives from its partner vendors to discuss applications for the TK1000 kiosk, which Dunn says is its self-service "bread and butter." In addition to a stand-alone model, a through-the-wall version of the TK1000 is available.
One such application is money transfer, which Tranax works with Nexxo Financial Corp. to provide. Nexxo's Freddie Seba said the Northern California-based company caters primarily to the burgeoning Hispanic market in the United States, many members of which are unbanked and routinely send cash home to their families in Latin America.
Seba cited statistical evidence that Hispanics in America transfer money an average of 1.5 to 1.8 times per month, with the average transaction totaling $300. Nexxo, he said, processes as many as 2,000 transactions on some of its money-transfer kiosks, whose U.S. deployments number around 500, with locations throughout California, Arizona, Texas and Illinois.
Seba said money-transfer remittances are expected to grow to $100 billion through 2015, and Nexxo also offers bill-payment and mobile top-up as ancillary applications.
Dunn says the deployment of solutions for money transfer and bill payment, which Tranax partner VendTechs was on-hand to discuss, is a natural extension of current kiosk applications.
"You and I use the Internet to transfer money, have direct deposit ... and pay our bills with online banking," he said. "The financial self-service kiosk business is, by nature, geared toward the unbanked and underbanked."
During a presentation on bill-payment processing, Will Hunt and Latrice Claiborne, both from VendTechs, spoke about the proliferation of ATMs in the past few decades and how they have fostered a higher comfort level among consumers when making self-service transactions.
VendTechs has been in the self-service industry since 2004 and provides customizable options for billers through its payment-processing partner, Transaction Solutions.
Uniquely, end-users can pay any bill from any company using VendTechs' application. If the biller doesn't happen to be a company that works with Transaction Solutions, the payment processor simply issues a money order to the biller to complete the transaction.
Tranax partner Valid Systems also was on hand to educate ISOs on its check-cashing application, available for deployment with Tranax' 500CS turnkey check-cashing hardware, complete with card reader, check scanner, ID card scanner, fingerprint scanner, keyboard, printer and full LCD display.
John Templer, from the Ft. Worth, Texas-based company, discussed the application with attendees and touted its all-in-one, user-friendly configuration. The solution accepts payroll, tax and government-issued checks and employs more than 60,000 combinations of rules to prevent check fraud.
Valid works with many of the top-10 banks in the United States, Templer said, in addition to some of the country's largest payday lenders, rent-to-own companies, check-cashing services, grocery stores and convenience stores.
In addition to its kiosk hardware and applications, Tranax demonstrated its latest check scanners, including a single-feed model and an all-in-one version that features a fingerprint scanner, barcode reader and USB and serial connections, as well as a bulk check imager.
The check-scanning hardware caters to retailers interested in deploying remote deposit capture, which representatives of ProfitStars, a Jack Henry company, touted during their presentation.
Also on display was Tranax' line of traditional retail ATMs. The company offers sidecar hardware for its ATMs, ideal for applications such as bill payment and prepaid card dispensing.
Many of the Tranax ISOs in attendance at the Dallas meeting were impressed by the manufacturer's renewed commitment to the self-service and kiosk industry.
"The industry is quickly evolving," said Jamil Adair, president and CEO of Merchants First Choice Inc., a Tranax distributor. "We are moving into an era where offering value-added products and services (is) vital to the success of any ISO. Merchants are keen to technology, and they simply expect more from their ATM cash machines. Tranax has taken a proactive approach and positioned itself to deliver on these higher expectations."