Abstract: The Citi Never Sleeps: ATMs and Corporate Social Policy in New York City during the 1970s

Olga Pantelidou


The Citi Never Sleeps looks at the arrival of the Automated Teller Machine (ATM) and its role in the deployment of a bank's space as a mass medium. During the 1970s New York City came close to bankruptcy, and its retail-banking sector was in crisis. In that overheated environment, Citibank became the first bank to bet on the potential of the ATM to increase business, and the only large commercial financial institution to invest heavily in the city, especially in consumer banking. For two years, Citibank conducted market research and concept surveys to ensure the success of its ATM. Over the course of a few months, early in 1978 it sowed all five boroughs of its home city with more than 400 Customer Activated Terminals (CATs, as Citibank called its ATMs), providing the first widespread, on-demand, round-the-clock retail banking service. The modular communicative features of the CAT foreshadowed subsequent changes to banking law and enabled the bank to reconceive its branch network under a unified brand, a historical first. The paper analyzes Citibank's ATMs and branches as architectural spaces and elements in the urban fabric, with particular focus on the relationship of architecture and design to corporate social policy.