As the first international IT company to come to Cyprus, NCR has offered technological solutions to local companies and the Government of Cyprus for the last 65 years. Successful Business Magazine discusses today’s challenges and future changes in the IT world with Kyriakos Kyriakou, NCR’s general manager.
NCR is one of the oldest Cyprus companies with the newest technologies. What was the initial reason to create the regional Cyprus office in 1955?
When NCR decided to open operations in Cyprus, Cyprus did not have any IT companies. Everything was on paper – we did not have any computers. This is why we feel proud as a company to have been the ones who created the ICT business in Cyprus. The interest of NCR was to target the local market. NCR was expanding in other regions and Cyprus came to its trajectory. Do not forget that in 1955 Cyprus was under British command as a British colony. Therefore, one can say that NCR in Cyprus is older than the Republic of Cyprus itself, as the island gained its independence in 1960.
We are used to thinking that IT is something modern. What could NCR have sold as its services or products 60 years ago?
At first, NCR started selling cash registers for retailers. This was our main business at the time. As mentioned before, we did not have computers back then, so retail cash registers were mechanical machines. Cash registers had been the product that founded NCR as a business. This is what our name stands for – National Cash Registers. Gradually it evolved and has been known for many decades now as NCR. We had many innovations and inventions through the years, one of which is the first receipt printer. NCR was the first company to promote and sell such a solution. In fact, today this is mandatory in the retail sector around the globe. The first NCR printer did not have ink, it was still a mechanical machine punching on paper to produce the printout. Nothing similar to what we know today with the evolution of technology and digitalisation.
That is amazing. Soon you will be able to create a museum celebrating the achievements of NCR!
NCR has plenty of museums around the globe in its own premises. We also have one in our new headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia. Many customers have their own museums and NCR holds its own place in them. Whether this is an old cash register, a server, or PC we used to manufacture, and a series of other technologies that served thousands of customers and consumers around the globe. They all belong to the global history of the ICT industry today. You should know that NCR was founded by John Patterson in 1884. Many of the leading global IT firms that we know today were founded by people who used to work for NCR. Thomas Watson for example was the Sales Manager of NCR, close partner to John Patterson, who later left NCR and founded International Business Machines, what we know today as IBM. Our contribution in shaping the global IT market, and also helping create local IT markets like Cyprus, is something we are really proud of at NCR.
Not only in Cyprus. The NCR Cyprus headquarters is responsible for 60 countries.
That is true. In Cyprus, we have two legal entities. One is responsible for the business in the Middle East and Africa, and the other one for operations in Cyprus. Back in 1986 our office in Cyprus was established as a regional office for the whole of the Middle East and Africa. Cyprus used to be under MEA, but since Cyprus became a European country, it reports to the European regional office, despite the fact that the Cyprus office is also the regional office for Middle East and Africa.
In Cyprus, who are your main clients?
All the banks, the government and administration departments. When I say government, I mean the public sector in general. We also have clients in the retail sector, mainly the big retailers and grocery stores.
I know that when it comes to your clientele, banks play an important role. Is it true that they account for at least half of your clients?
This varies from year to year, but as a general comment I would say banking used to be bigger as a business in the past as a percentage to the rest of the lines of business. Today the situation has changed, with government growing faster for us compared to the rest. Both, however, are equally important to us, including the retail sector which is the smallest between the three.
If we put government aside, then the banking sector is the biggest, isn't it? NCR is number one in the world when it comes to ATM. What is your share in Cyprus?
We have about 91% market share in the local ATM market, taking into account the local ATM network from all the banks operating here in Cyprus, so yes, we are quite successful. I would not say we are the lowest cost vendor in the market. But we believe we are the vendor who combines a good quality of service with relevant reasonable pricing. In other words, partnering with NCR, customers have more value to gain from us than the price they have to pay to partner with us. Overall we are still the best offer out there, and we believe this is the reason for our success.
Other than that, in recent years we have seen NCR gaining an advantage in terms of the design of its products, the quality of the materials used to produce those products, more advanced reliabilityserviceability-maintainability features of the ATMs, but more importantly investments made from acquisitions and in human capital to ensure our leading position in the industry for many years to come. Of course, not just in Cyprus, but around the globe.
To conclude on the topic of banking, I would like to touch on the concept of assisted-service and selfservice technologies. Today, more and more people prefer to interact with their banks using technology, i.e. computers, mobile phones, or ATMs. Is it possible that in the future tellers at branches might not be needed anymore, with customers completely relying on technology?
No, the tellers will not disappear. Let me explain why.
There are three types of customers: the digital natives, the digital immigrants, and the traditional type.
Digital natives are the customers who have been born during the digital age. Their preference is always self-service. In their majority, they are the younger generation who are most likely to choose the digital channels to communicate and interact with the bank.
Digital immigrants are the older generations that, although they have not been born in the digital age, have managed to migrate from the analogue age to the digital one. They are keen to use the self-service channels of a bank. They share similar characteristics as the digital natives, however their origin is what differentiates them.
And finally, we have the traditional type of customers, those who firmly believe they deserve to be served by a person, not a machine. Interestingly, we do not have just one age group in this type. There are young, middle-aged, and older people who fall into this category. As time passes, we do see less of them, but to suggest that such customer type disappears is a bit risky.
Only time can tell what will happen. Today, there is no evidence whatsoever that the traditional type of customers is going to vanish. Banks will need to maintain their branches and tellers for as long as they exist.
What other trends do you see?
Having a look at the retail sector for example, so that banking does not monopolise the discussion, we see a big rise of self-checkout technologies, especially in grocery stores in Europe. If you go to Tesco or Sainsbury's, you will see a line of self-checkout machines that customers can go to, check out all the items in their basket much faster, without having to wait in long queues to pay, and conclude their shopping at the terminal, with no assistance from any employee of the supermarket.
Please don't get the wrong impression. What we are saying is that retail is entering the transformation phase that banks went through decades ago with their digital channels. You can think of self-checkout as the ATM of the banking industry. It is very similar, only in a different industry. They will still not replace the cashiers of the store, but they will give more options to the store’s customers to choose from.
We see the same happening in Cyprus these days, with one of the big grocery stores installing such machines in their stores. We will see how it goes and the success it will have in a market like Cyprus, but overall, in Europe we see a big move towards self-checkout.
Going back to the public sector, what projects have you implemented that facilitate the life of regular people by providing new technology?
NCR has implemented and maintained many government systems through the years. The Treasury department of the government, the Tax Authority system of Cyprus, the Government Payroll System, the Regulator of Insurance Companies, the system for the implementation of the National Health System of Cyprus, and more.
For the second part of the question question, let me give you some examples. Today, every financial transaction that happens within the government goes through systems that NCR has implemented. For the Health System of Cyprus, whether it is a person being treated by a doctor, or a pharmacy dispensing a drug, or a patient seeking help from the call centre, NCR is behind to provide that service and an NCR system executes the transaction. Same goes for the tax systems we implemented for people paying taxes, declaring income, and so on.
At the end of our interview, I would like to ask about technology in general. The 4th Industrial Revolution, what does it mean to you? What progress do you see happening in the next five years?
I come from a company that specialises in self-service. I think that the world and all industries are becoming more selfservice oriented. If you go to a hotel in Europe, you have to register online, get your key through a self-service kiosk, and do much more in self-service. Self-service is increasingly becoming part of our lives. These self-intuitive technologies that we have today in our mobile phones or tablets can be applied in every industry. Let us take Cyprus as an example. Cyprus is the only country that implemented a national health insurance system that is completely paperless. There is not a single paper sent anywhere to process a health care service in Cyprus. Everything is being done electronically. Doctors with limited training could use this system from day one. They could go online, log in, and although they did not know everything they needed to know from day one, they could still find their way in the system to do their job. A week from that first day, they are experts in using this system and would not remember how they operated prior to the system being in place, helping them do their job in a much more organised and structured way.
So, I would say self-service is the future applicable to all industries, having a positive outcome and forcing all industries to transform themselves to survive the demands of the Digital Age; such demands are being prescribed by the end-customers themselves.
NCR Corporation (NYSE: NCR) is the global leader in consumer transaction technologies, turning everyday interactions with businesses into exceptional experiences.
It is headquartered in Duluth, Georgia, Unites States, with approximately 33,000 employees and does business in 170 countries.
With its software, hardware, and portfolio of services, NCR enables more than 485 million transactions daily across retail, financial, travel, hospitality, telecom, and technology industries, and small business.
With its view of more than 485 million transactions around the world each day, NCR is helping its customers respond to the demand for fast, easy and convenient transactions with intuitive self-service and assisted-service options.
What we do goes beyond niche technologies or markets; our solutions run the everyday transactions that make life easier and help businesses around the world increase revenue, build loyalty, reach new customers, and lower their costs of operations.
By continually learning about – and thereafter pioneering means – of how the world interacts and transacts, we help companies not only reach their goals but also change the way all of us shop, eat, travel, bank, and connect.