A few weeks ago, Dollar Bank (Pittsburgh, Pa.) began operating personal teller machines (PTM) at two of its branches. (Read more about it .) Such machines, which look like ATMs but are hooked up by audiovisual means to a live teller located at a central location, have been slow to catch on with banks.
However, as outlined in a Celent report (see "The long road to customer centricity"), bank retail delivery is set to fundamentally change, particularly in the branch. Says Bob Meara, who wrote the report, "While substantive branch transformation remains a rarity in North America, there appears to be a growing consensus that the status quo is unsustainable."
ABA Banking Journal asked Meara to discuss the PTM and its relationship with the changing nature of the branch:
"Most bankers I speak with, the last thing they would want to do is invite customers, who come into their branch, to talk to somebody over a video phone, particularly if it's not optional. Some bankers believe, philosophically, that that's a bad idea ...
"I'm not advocating one way or another, but if you're a bank that advocates that position, there's a cost to pay. Competitors who are delivering teller transactions at half the cost are going to be able to put a lot of profits to use that you won't have access to. That's just the way it is."
Meara has visited and talked with Coastal Federal Credit Union in North Carolina, which installed PTMs more than a year ago and claims it has reduced teller-staffing costs by 40%. He points out that such machines are successful because they are fairly well accepted by the generally technology-savvy clientele who live in the Research Triangle section of the state.
"It's not for everybody, and that goes back to the difficulty of all this. There is no such thing as a homogenous market," Meara says.
First Capital Bank of Texas (Midland) Chairman Ken Burgess is one banker planning to install PTMs.
"We are in the process, right now, of redoing all our branches. Within the next six months, we will start to put in remote teller units in our branches and replace a lot of our live tellers," Burgess tells ABA BJ.
One twist he plans is to make them available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. "We can put some part-time people on the night shift," Burgess explains. "There won't be that many transactions at night, so we feel we'll be able to run all those remote teller units with two or three people at most ... We feel like that will differentiate us from our competition."
[This article was posted on August 28, 2012, on the website of ABA Banking Journal, www.ababj.com.]