A tribute to the life of John Shepherd-Barron, ATM inventor

May 20, 2010 | by ATM marketplace

LONDON — The ATM Industry Association (ATMIA) this week paid tribute to Mr. John Shepherd-Barron, the inventor of the ATM, whose funeral took place May 21 in Tain, a small town in northeastern Scotland.

He died on May 15 after a short illness. He was 84. His obituary can be read here

"John Shepherd-Barron's invention of the cash dispenser revolutionized banking," said Mike Lee, CEO of ATMIA, "and spawned a worldwide industry with an installation base that has grown to over 1.8 million ATMs."

In 2006, ATMIA presented Mr. Shepherd-Barron with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He received an OBE for services to banking in the Queen's New Year Honours List in 2005. Near the end of his life, he stated that he had used ATMs successfully for over forty years.

Mr. Shepherd-Barron receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award from ATMIA (presented to him by Chris Halewood of De la Rue).

Tom Harper, ATMIA cofounder and publisher of ATMmarketplace.com, remembers meeting him in 2007 at ATMIA's 10th anniversary conference. Coincidentally, the industry was celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ATM's invention. "When I shook his hand at the awards banquet, I realized this man was the reason for ATMIA and our entire industry. His legacy is a unique footprint of more than 2 million machines and a worldwide convenience that has touched the lives of countless people."

"I was privileged to interview Mr. Shepherd-Barron in 2001 and to finally meet him when we presented him with a lifetime achievement award on behalf of the industry," said Lee. "He was a charming gentleman of strong convictions who was not afraid to challenge the status quo. I will never forget his words when he described how he conceived of the ATM in the bath one Saturday evening. He said he decided then and there, 'If chocolates can be dispensed, why can't cash?'"

Dominic Hirsch, Managing Director of Retail Banking Research, a global leader in ATM research, summed up the sentiment of the industry towards him in these words: "Everyone who works in the ATM industry owes John Shepherd-Barron a huge debt of gratitude. For those of us who were lucky enough to know him, we will remember his intellect, his humour and above all his pioneering spirit."

Mr. Shepherd-Barron receiving a gift from Dominic Hirsch of RBR for speaking at the ATMIA 2008 conference in London.

"It's so sad he has gone," Amanda Hardy, ATMIA's European Marketing Director, added. "We used to speak quite regularly. He remained passionate about the industry to the end."

In October last year, an incident occurred at an ATM which warmed the inventor's heart. He had drawn cash at his local ATM and left a £10 note left lying in the dispenser tray. It had been handed in by an honest employee at the nearby store, whereupon it was figured out he had been the previous user. The postman then delivered the £10 note to him at his home. Shepherd-Barron donated this money to the British Heart Foundation. It was the first time he had ever had a problem drawing cash at an ATM, through no fault of the machine, of course. A letter expressing his appreciation for this act of honesty appeared in the Ross-shire Journal. It is perhaps his last public statement and can be read here.

Stories about Mr. Shepherd-Barron on ATMmarketplace.com:

BBC article and video interview (2007):

Topics: ATMs

Companies: ATM Industry Association (ATMIA)

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