Branch Transformation: A closer look at what the future holds and what is already here

By Jessamyn Palme | 21 June 2016

Innovation in branch transformation – that buzzword-laden catchphrase being heard, read and promoted everywhere online and at financial industry events. But what does it mean? Search the internet for information and you will find more buzzwords coupled with a lot of marketing jargon. As a marketer, I should be okay with this. However, I wanted to know more – understand the substance, the creativity and cutting-edge technologies that truly define “branch innovation.”

My first stop in the quest for knowledge was our own branch innovation implementation, and first of its kind in Italy, with Monte Paschi. The 3-month implementation at their Piazza Tolomei, Siena, incorporated “cash in” which is then recycled. By doing this, the ATM now receives deposits, counts, sorts and catalogues the amount but then reuses the same bills for withdrawals. Additionally, bank customers can now have more options for cash breakdowns, including 5 and 10 bills, as if they visited a teller window.

Among other innovations available to the market now are scanning checks for deposit and prepaid card top up. Bill payments through the new ATMs support the capability to pay with cash and coins instead of through a customer’s account only. This is due to the integration of new hardware peripherals for coin dispensing and recycling. To add even more convenience for customers, they will soon be able to avoid spending lots of time manually entering the billing data thanks to OCR (automatically character recognition) which automatically read the bill. Subsequent phases will expand ATM abilities to services such as printing bank statements on standard paper sizes and “one-time-password” (OPT) by service requested, omitting the need for customers to have their physical card with them when making withdrawals, payments, account balance requests and other activities. In essence, their username is tracked through their account’s internet banking credentials and they will receive an OTP via mobile phone. Each service requested by the customer will be assigned a new and different OPT for enhanced security.

In effect, this will be similar user experience on mobile apps, which certainly creates more convenience for customers. However, it’s only a small step towards a transformative and innovative future. Customers are not the only people in the bank branch equation, though. To be truly compelling, employee workflows and focus would change as well. Thus creating a more efficient and effective banking experience for all.

Software solutions already in development will integrate peripherals including phones, tablet-style touch screens and real-time video with existing bank services on the hybrid ATMs. For example, the tablet screen ATM has a “help button” to receive assistance via written chat messaging between the customer and customer service. Through the branch’s networked computers, the representative can identify which ATM is requesting assistance and address individual customer concerns during the transaction process.

Instead of having multiple tellers and an information desk inside each branch, banks can retrain and refocus staff to deliver more value-add services. This can greatly reduce personnel costs while simultaneously help to increase revenues through sales, loan management, investment advising and other high value services. The new ATM software and equipment can even centralise customer service; in-branch ATM services can instead be managed from an off-site location, like the organisation’s headquarters.

A remote controlled ATM sends the help call to a centralised help center where a remote customer service representative can see what is going on at the ATM and assist the customers step by step over by a phone connected directly to the ATM or even take over the machine to run it on the customer’s behalf. Depending on the ATM’s specific peripherals, customers can talk with the remote teller who will appear in an auxiliary video screen or even more futuristic… as a hologram!

If you need a new card, there’s a solution for that, too. Adding special services kiosks inside the branch creates a semi-automated self-service point for instant issuing card services. Customers provide identification to either branch personnel or scan and send through the kiosk to a remote service representative who in turn initiates the instant issuing process for the customer to have their new card for use immediately.

Forgot your PIN, or worse yet, your debit card? No problem in the branch of the (not so distant) future. Connect with the remote customer service and scan identification documents to be compared with originals stored on file at the bank. They also see the customer through the video screen, for an extra layer of sight recognition security and, with a few keystrokes, can allow the customer to skip card authentication step.

Changing the user experience through a new transformative branch approach is not far off. Some of these innovations will be up and running in a few months. The new generation of hybrid ATMs are moving us in the right direction, and with the right software, we will see the cutting-edge future of banking in the very near future.

By Jessamyn Palmé, Global Marketing & Partnerships, TAS Group.


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