Central Bank develops its network of ATMs in Uzbekistan

The government is trying to develop those niches businesses aren’t interested in

As of early August 2022, there were 9,700 automatic teller machines (ATM) in Uzbekistan. The local central bank is ranked fifth among the biggest owners of ATMs in the country. The Kursiv edition has found out why the regulator is doing so. 

The biggest operator of an ATM network in Uzbekistan is Agrobank. It runs 1,614 machines all over the country. Xalq Banki with 1,418 ATMs holds the second position. Both banks are controlled by the Uzbek government which wants to develop those market niches businesses aren’t interested in so far. For example, in April’s national address President Shavkat Mirziyoyev ordered Xalq Banki (in conjunction with the Central Bank) to acquire an additional 1,800 ATMs by October. The third position is occupied by Kapitalbank which runs 845 ATMs. Another state-owned bank called Ipoteka Bank owns 551 ATMs and the Central Bank itself runs a network of 500 ATMs.

Other Uzbekistani banks either control a few ATMs or prefer to not have them at all. For example, young digital banks such as TBC, Anor and Apelsin have no ATMs, even though their clients push demand for cash as well.

The regulator has been developing a network of ATMs for the past few years when the number of cardholders was growing but people struggled with a lack of ATMs.

«Five years ago there were no ATMs as banks just started to develop their ATM infrastructure. Initially, banks were extremely reluctant to do so,» said Botir Zakhidov, deputy head of the Central Bank of Uzbekistan.

The regulator was forced to dive into the ATM issue in order to help people access a range of financial services, according to the official. «We’ve taken this obligation and brought ATMs to the country. We have put them in places not attractive for commercial banks like hospitals, universities and so on. We continue to implement this program and now we see how those unattractive sites become more and more profitable,» he said. All ATMs owned by the Central Bank are run by its subsidiary called the Republican Collection Service, which makes some profit by getting fees from this type of activity.

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