Farmers & Merchants Bank, a Berlin, Wis.-based financial institution, has one location, but company officials want to add a drive-through window.
They have balked at the idea because of the cost of a brick-and-mortar facility in addition to the expense associated with hiring a teller to handle transactions.
"We thought it would be too expensive," said MacKenzie Thoma, the bank's Operations Team Leader.
On Tuesday, Thoma and his colleague Debbie Clausen, Farmers & Merchants' senior data processing officer, attended NCR Corp.'s 2011 Innovation Conference, and the two think they may have found the answer to their need for a drive-through window and, at the same time, keep the bank's costs in line.
Their answer appears to be NCR's SelfServ 32 ATM which is equipped with interactive-teller technology. The machine, which is called the NCR APTRA Interactive Teller, enables bank customers to hold a live video-conference exchange with a teller who is housed in a remote location, said Jed W. Taylor, president of
Story continues below... uGenius, a technology company based in Sandy, Utah, that wrote the software for the machine.
Duluth, Ga.-based NCR integrated UGenius' two-way video-conferencing technology into the NCR SelfServ 32.
By being housed in a remote location and with video-conferencing technology, a teller can handle several teller locations, saving the bank labor costs, Taylor said. Video teller also can extend the bank's hours like a regular ATM, but with a personal touch of a human being on the other end.
If a bank installs a branch in a retail store, and the branch closes at 5 p.m., but the store is open until 10 p.m., the SelfServ 32 video-conferencing ATM can still serve customers who have to handle their financial matters outside of normal banking hours.
"Customers cannot always bank during banking hours," said Michael O'Laughlin, senior vice president of NCR Financial Services. "They want service at a time and place convenient for them."
Taylor explained that there is a market for the video-conferencing teller because of the ongoing financial crisis that forced banks to carefully study the costs of opening new branches. In addition, fewer customers visit branches, yet some individuals still want assistance from bank employees.
If a bank customer needs assistance, the teller can take over the transaction, Taylor said. And if a customer does not need help, the SelfServ 32 operates like a regular ATM. The remote teller will be able to handle basic transactions but not something more complicated like financial planning, said Jeff Dudash, a spokesperson for NCR.
Toma and Clausen crowded around the SelfServ 32 as Jeff Stott, UGenius vice president of Sales and Marketing, demonstrated the video teller during NCR's conference, which was held in Des Plaines, Ill., near Chicago. Toma also participated in the demonstration by having a male bank teller located in a remote location walk him through a transaction.
Clausen said she liked the idea of the video teller because Farmers & Merchants Bank has a large number of elderly customers, and the video teller could assist them with transactions. The financial institution also could have someone work in the office and handle teller transactions via video conferencing when a motorist pulls up to the drive-through window.
Two unnamed financial institutions currently are testing the SelfServ 32 video teller ATM.