How’s this for innovative banking? Move the ATMs inside the lobby and station the tellers outside.
It’s happening here through an infusion of technology, and it’s aimed at creating more face time between bankers and their customers.
Those are real tellers chatting with customers in the drive-through lanes at the Wyandotte Plaza and Blue Springs branches of CommunityAmerica Credit Union. The conversations happen remotely over a video hookup using an interactive teller machine, or ITM.
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The credit union’s “video agents” are sitting miles away in the credit union’s corporate offices in Lenexa.
Meanwhile, customers inside the Wyandotte Plaza branch and another in Raytown do business with souped-up automated teller machines.
These ATMs take in and dispense $1s, $5s and coins. They cash checks to the penny, accept credit card payments, transfer money between accounts and generally handle traditional teller functions normal ATMs can’t.
“I’ve been coming in here pretty much since they opened,” said Fatimah Clark, an ATM regular inside the 1-month-old Wyandotte Plaza branch. “You can just come in. You don’t have to wait in line.”
Other banks and credit unions are working these kinds of machines into their branch networks. A St. Louis area credit union demonstrated in this video how its interactive teller machine works.
It’s one answer to the quandary banks face in the age of online and mobile banking. Customers simply don’t visit.
Many are culling their networks, though U.S. Bank has expanded its Kansas City area footprint to 60 sites by adding branches on corporate and education campuses.
Outside this area, however, U.S. Bank is experimenting with advanced teller machines, seeking to help customers do routine transactions quickly. They also allow bankers a chance to engage customers with a greeting and a personal pitch for other services they also might use.
The same idea is behind Lead Bank’s newly opened Crossroads branch beside the Kansas City streetcar line on Main Street. Watch for the Dec. 14 launch of the branch’s ATM.
With it, customers can deal in $1s, $5s and coins, transfer funds between accounts, make loan and credit card payments, open accounts and cash checks. For security, users without their debit cards can present a driver’s license through an ID scanner, use a fingerprint reader or type in a Social Security number — any two will do.
Dubbed Workbench by the bank, this sole station comes with a chair for business customers who have multiple duties to accomplish. Business owners or employees can gain access to the company’s accounting information, if it is available remotely, through a separate computer at the station.
And if a user gets stuck or just needs more help, the machine calls over one of the bankers to help. If no one is available, it dials up a video session with someone at either of Lead’s two other locations, in Lee’s Summit and Garden City, Mo.
“The technology delivers human expertise,” said Lead Bank vice chairman Josh Rowland.
This hardware is pricey. Lead’s Workbench is a $150,000 investment.
Those three smart ATMs inside CommunityAmerica’s lobby cost $50,000 each, including software and other items. Its interactive machines in the drive-through lanes weigh in at $60,000.
Indoor ATMs allow for open floor plans, eliminating the traditional physical barrier between customer and teller.
The staff at Lead Crossroads are universal bankers, able to do traditional front-line work but also empowered to approve personal loans.
Employees at CommunityAmerica’s Wyandotte Plaza branch each tote a tablet when they greet members. It means access to account information and more, allowing face-to-face banking on the spot.
“I’ve taken an entire loan application sitting in the comfy chairs,” said Christy Setter, branch manager for the credit union’s Wyandotte Plaza branch.
She’s referring to the conversation area on the other side of the coffee station in the lobby.
Both institutions still offer small meeting stations and closed rooms for more private banking chats, perhaps on how to build credit or put together a budget.
Both also plan to expand their blend of technology and personal contact to other locations. CommunityAmerica, for example, will open an Olathe branch early next year similar to its Wyandotte Plaza location.