FARMERS BRANCH, Texas, and MADISON, Wis. (9/19/11)--Several credit unions recently have announced new tellerless, high technology branches. Does that mean human tellers are becoming an endangered species? No, says Mary White, founder of WTC Performance Group and a training and organizational consultant (LoneStar Leaguer
Sept. 6). "This is similar to all the stories 15 or 20 years ago that claimed that with the advent of debit and ACH (automated clearinghouse) cards, brick-and-mortar credit unions and banks were going to go away," she told the Texas Credit Union League. "Yet, look around. Financial institutions are still building and growing." While the concept of tellerless branches may have merits in a technology-driven world, White said, the actual application of the concept may prove otherwise. "What happens when a member or customer wants to cash a check or requires a more complex transaction than can be handled by machine?" She noted that the importance of human interaction matters--even to younger generations tethered to their gadgets. Citing surveys showing that technical service matters, but customer service matters far more, White suggested that employers may be underusing their tellers. "So many tellers I have worked with have so many more talents than what the credit unions are using," she said, noting the high turnover on the front line occurs because "we don't tap their brains and really use the front line to deliver memorable member service." "Credit unions are all about 'people hiring people'--and that requires people," White said. Several credit unions announced this month that they were opening state-of-the-art techno-teller services. Among them:
* American Heritage FCU, Philadelphia, which opened its newest branch with Personal Automated Teller (PAT) machines that combine the convenience of an ATM with a personal, two-way video interaction, said the Pennsylvania Credit Union Association (Life is a Highway Sept. 6). It will be staffed by a branch manager, assistant branch manager and member service officer, and all teller transactions will be handled by the PAT. American Heritage became the first financial institution in Pennsylvania to introduce PAT technology when it deployed a PAT unit in Northeast Philadelphia last year. * Education First CU, Columbus, Ohio, which has deployed a 200-square-foot Video Banking Branch in the Gahanna's Lincoln School District, said the Ohio Credit Union League (eLumination Newsletter Sept. 7). The fully functional remote unit connects with the credit union's member service representatives, who can be hundreds of miles away in a central video call center. While members familiarize themselves with the new technology, a credit union staffer provides assistance on site. Members can conduct virtually any type of banking transaction as well as open accounts and apply for loans.
"The blend of technology and assisted service is taking place across many industries," said Education First CU President/CEO Dick Maslyk. "When we combine the power of personalized services with business efficiencies, everyone wins. This technology will allow Education First to move forward with key strategic goals to serve our marketplace better through new branch deployments and design," he told the Ohio league.