CBCs/Citicard Banking Centers

Loved the ATMs!!!

I joined Citi in 1978, just a year after we rolled out our CBCs/Citicard Banking Centers across the NY metropolitan area.

We may not have been the very first bank to have them, but we were certainly the first major bank to!

And we did it right…all the time!

Working autodialer phones by every machine.

At least 2 ATMs in every CBC (except 1 site, I believe, the Stapleton br #43 in Staten Island).

Many CBCs had many more than 2 ATMS, especially our high-traffic locations in Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn & other sites around the NYBD/New York Banking Division. I believe the “stand-alone CBC” (no branch attached) in Manhattan @ 34th St & 8th Ave had 20 (24?) machines!

We always had a standing desk with supplies for our customers (deposit/payment tickets..envelopes…a metal pen chained to the desk with the heaviest & strongest metal known to man, which invariably got stolen on a regular basis).

This was, after all, New York…home to some of the very best things in life as well as some of the very worst.

I also remember commissioning a firm to design & produce a special envelope dispenser that we adhered to the wall, within reach of the ATM user so they didn’t have to leave the machine unattended & go the the desk for an envelope.

That was implemented not only for convenience, but for safety & fraud protection reasons as well.

I also hired a company to produce a HEAVY-DUTY autodialer phone to thwart vandalism.

And while the indestructible phone units performed very well & reduced incidents of damage significantly, we also had some Brooklynites who actually saw it as a challenge to their BS “street cred”. While we never had to repair a phone, these idiots would remove the entire unit from its moorings!!!

Removed from our system, they were completely worthless to anyone else!

These phones were also great in that my CitiPhone reps could tell where the call originated, a very useful feature in case the machines were out of cash/not operating or they needed to provide directions to the nearest Citi location.

The CBCs were always heated/air-conditioned & protected all users from the elements.

At some sites on Long Island, for example (like at the Smithhaven Mall br #628), we had a stand-alone CBC kiosk that in addition to the normal amenities, housed a small office for account opening.

We also had DUCATs/Drive-Up Customer-Activated Terminals at several “suburban-like” branch settings that allowed customers to conduct their transactions without leaving the comfort of their vehicle.

We installed special anti-glare screens (as well as tinted lobby glass) to facilitate use during the day.

In 1985, after a few years of constantly hearing my CitiPhone people getting abused on Mondays by those customers who already hit their business-day cash withdrawal limits (remember, from 7PM ET Friday all through to midnight Monday was the same business day), I proposed increasing the cash withdrawal limit from $500/acct/business day to $1000.

Today, I believe it’s calendar-day based (not business day) and by card (not account). Yes, they give you some stuff while taking others away.

For CitiGold & Private Bank (our very best customers), I think it’s still $2000 per acct, not card.

I could be mistaken as it’s been awhile!

And though I’ve been gone since late 2006, I’ll still continue to use “our” whenever referring to Citi


I hadda fight long & hard to get the approval of the Retail Bank, especially from those “crusty veteran” AOMs/Area Operations Managers like Mike Gaffney (B/SI), Bill Mullins (LI), John Healy (Queens), Tom Grant (Upper Manhattan), Norm Merritt (Lower Manhattan) & Tom Gearity (Bronx/Westchester/Rockland).

They were worried about significantly increasing (doubling?) the losses we suffered with fraudulent ATM cash withdrawals.

While I felt for their predicament, I felt even more strongly about our customers & the service we provided.

“After all, guys, it is THEIR money! It would be nice if we allowed them better access to more of it!

That’s just part of the cost of doing business!”

It finally passed as I got their approval.

I also held several discussions with my buddies in Fraud & Operating Loss…they, too, had similar concerns.

I recommended that we simply do away with ALL ATMs & voila, we could bring those damned pesky unauthorized ATM cash withdrawal claims & losses down to -0-.


They finally relented as well.

Of course, every time we suffered a big loss, someone would invariably shoot me an “evil eye” memo or e-mail, but…

Like all our automated service channels (IVR/Interactive Voice Response, on-line Banking, Bill Payment, etc.), customer satisfaction with our CBCs was incredibly high & significantly better than all our manual service channels (tellers, CitiPhone reps, branch personnel, etc.).

One of the biggest downsides to our CBC banking lobbies was the fact that they, indeed, were heated & air-conditioned (No, not simultaneously, silly!) and protected people from the elements.

We had a lot of vandalism of the lobbies themselves, the check-writing desks (especially the pens & supplies), the autodialer phones, etc..

There was a problem with the homeless, setting up camp there (especially during the evenings & overnight) & serving as “doormen” (often charging ATM users $1 or more to enter).

We had the infamous Crazy Gluer who like to pour his stuff down our card readers.

And, of course, the muggers, the thieves & all the unsavory characters who turned a simply banking transaction into a battle for your money…and your life, sometimes.

At our “high-risk, high-incident” CBC sites in B/LI/SI, our Facilities Management people installed security cameras, “hidden” behind smoked glass.

While they were useful in helping to identify suspects with the Police when something bad did occur, we started to experience a noticeable decrease in vandalism & crime.

Apparently, they also served a very good purpose as crime deterrents, especially since the use of security cameras behind smoked glass became more prevalent in many retail establishments.

When Facilities said that it would be cost-prohibitive to install security cameras in all CBC lobbies (which I never really understood as all our branches already had security & surveillance systems in place), I recommended the next best thing…

Smoked glass WITHOUT the cameras behind them!

Install them in obvious locations in & around the CBC and maybe the troublemakers will think twice before starting anything.

Yes, they worked!

We saw a general decrease in CBC vandalism & crime overall, at both “camera-protected” & “smoked-glass-only” locations.

Years later, to be compliant with the ADA/Americans with Disabilities Act, Citi enhanced our ATMs to be operable by visually-paired users.

They would be able to plug a pair of headphones into the ATM itself & navigate by tapping the screen a number of times instead of choosing options on the touch screen. VCAT/Visual Customer Activated Termknal capability soon became part of every ATM’s capabilities.

Early on in my career (’78-’80), I would interface regularly with our technology development partners, Technology Transactions, Inc. out of Santa Monica, CA, regarding advancements they were working on.

(You veteran Citibankers remember the Type 1 terminals? They were originally called TTI terminals.)

One of the more amazing & innovative tests involved the user of “fingerprint identification” & “iris detection”, instead of using plastic cards, as a means of customer identification & ATM activation/usage!

And this was the late ’70s, early ’80s!

A world without the need for plastic…and all the stupid problems & expenses associated with producing, mailing, using, losing, stealing, replacing, misusing, damaging, etc. these ATM cards!

Just one problem…

With all the hundreds of consumer focus groups they had by bringing people into the lab to test out these capabilities, they were unable to sway customers’ feelings (and assumptions) regarding individual privacy (fingerprints, mostly) & perceived physical dangers (iris detection uses lasers…nobody wanted holes burned through their heads when all they really needed was some cash).

While these consumer concerns were based more in fear than fact & the bank would still support the use of plastic if a customer so desired (in addition, we would also need to when non-Citi customers gained access to our ATM network), Citi could never get over that proverbial hurdle.

Fingerprints & iris detection were being used then for high-security access at certain government facilities & companies dealing with “highly confidential matters”, but consumer perception & acceptance of these technologies was simply not positive when it came to financial services.

Perhaps these technologies will be revisited again.

Probably not much different that the firm in Minnesota (?) that imbedded a microchip beneath the skin of the employees for secure access to their facilities & other purposes.

I know that most people today would say, “Nope, not me! No way! I’d change jobs first!”, but it’s already a pretty-common practice with our pets and I can certainly envision a time when…

And, no, I’m not having a discussion about the COVID-19 vaccines!!!

Im just shocked at how many medical research scientists I’ve met in the past 6 months!

OK, that all I got for now!


As always, thank you so very much for listening!

P.S.  I got the Pfizer shots in March & to date, there’s no visible sign of an arm growing out of my forehead!

Many people, however, would agree that it would represent a vast improvement in my looks!

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