Tech Barrier Fading Fast

A deeper dive on ITMs

By Katy Koch Campbell

With restaurants increasingly giving customers the option to order food through touch screens, airline allowing people to do self-service check-ins, and healthcare providers providing Skype sessions with registere nurses, one has to wonder: Is tech still a barrier?

“The generation that is coming up almost expects to drive more transactions through technology,” said Mike Dalglish, co-owner and president of Twin Cities-based Case Financial. He said he regularly has the conversation with executives about how interactive teller machines (ITMs) provide a differentiator with staffing and other efficiencies, while allowing banks to still maintain a desired customer experience.

“If you automate, you can spend more time selling solutions to consumers,” Dalglish said. “We have seen financial institutions basically taking the machines automating transactions not have to staff as much, and reducing sick time when the manager needs to step in and run the teller line. The manager is focused on individually selling the services to the consumer.”

Available to the industry for about five years, ITMs “are really taking off” in rural communities, Dalglish said. Though he declined to name a total number of installations, he noted the usage. A branch may be staffed, for example, from 9 a.m. to noon or 2 p.m., then the branch closes and an ITM extends hours until 7 p.m. This can be convenient for farmers and com-
muters, and for “bigger small towns” where more than one bank may compete for staff from a limited employment pool.

The ITM is staffed by a teller located inside the bank, who answers the video calls. Tellers are not located at non-banking locations because of compliance regulations, Dalglish said. The industry standard is one teller per three machines, and staffing can be adjusted by the amount of incoming volume.

NCR corporation offers an APTRA Interactive Teller that is a uni combining a traditional ATM with a choice of connecting by video with the teller in what it calls “a highly personalized, two-way audio/video interaction. This lowers processing costs, provides faster transactions and, potentially, opens other areas of growth, according to NCR. A video screen popup, for example, can prompt a customer to think about options for a line of credit and then a teller can come online and help schedule a meeting with a personal banker.

“Think of the machine as the arms of the teller. It can give cash out, take cash in and meet any denomination request, for example, $23.50, and dispense coins,” Dalglish said. At the same time, there still is a need for “unique transactions” to be handled in-person at the bank. A commercial customer, for example, depositing several thousands of dollars in cash and coin, would go to a concierge inside the bank with a cash recycler, much as a person checking multiple bags at an airport is more efficiently handled by an agent. Then you get to have the traditional interaction
of “counter conversations.”

The physical requirements of having an ITM are “super small,” Dalglish said. They can go outside of a bank in an extra-wide drive-through lane, or inside the bank in a vestibule accessible after-hours.

With new bank branch construction, technology is an essential part of the planning. As architect Sean Raboin with Twin Cities-based HTG observed, “ITM is a pretty hot tech word in the financial industry.”

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