Ask any FI and they'll tell you they still firmly believe in the importance of the branch — just not the big and stodgy, desk-dotted, teller window-festooned branch of the past 30 years.
In a digital age, FIs are transforming the branch into a smaller, precisely designed and totally "wired" environment centered around customer ease and convenience. And the results are something along the lines of a branch reinvention now approaching completion in Austria. The project involves Wincor Nixdorf and BAWAG P.S.K., Austria's fifth largest retail bank, formed by the 2005 merger of BAWAG and P.S.K. banks.
An interesting wrinkle to the merger was that P.S.K. branches were also rooftops for the Austrian Post Office. In 2010, the arrangement was expanded to include all 520 BAWAG P.S.K. branches. And so the BAWAG P.S.K. branch reinvention began.
The branch model developed by BAWAG P.S.K. and Wincor features an extensive self-service zone in the lobby, which is accessible around the clock at urban branches. Here, customers use ATMs, self-service devices for remittances, withdrawals and deposits, self-service scanners, statement printers, cash-deposit machines and multifunctional devices in a modern, open space. So far, more than 380 branches have been made over with the new self-service concept; the remainder will be finished by early 2013.
ATM Marketplace recently conducted a Q&A with two of the project's team members. Arno Wohlfahrter, head of retail customer sales at BAWAG P.S.K., and Josef Pichler, director of banking software and solutions at Wincor Nixdorf Austria, offered a look inside a highly complex system that delivers amazingly simple customer self-service.
ATM: When did planning begin for this project?
JP: BAWAG P.S.K. started the project in May 2009 with solution workshops done together with Wincor Nixdorf. Step by step, different functions and customer services were discussed based on Wincor Nixdorf’s software offering and BAWAG P.S.K.'s requirements. The project officially began in February 2011.
ATM: How did Wincor Nixdorf and BAWAG P.S.K. work together to map out the system?
AW: Before starting the implementation project, BAWAG P.S.K. and Wincor Nixdorf designed step by step the overall scope of the solution. BAWAG P.S.K. defined its requirements and Wincor Nixdorf provided consulting services and shared its experiences from other international projects.
BAWAG P.S.K.'s request was to develop and implement a function-rich self-service platform that provided a full range of customer services for cash and non-cash transactions. Wincor Nixdorf consulted BAWAG P.S.K. on both a functional and technical level to ensure that BAWAG P.S.K. selected a solution that best met all of its defined requirements.
ATM: How does the BAWAG P.S.K./Austrian Post Office arrangement work?
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AW: BAWAG P.S.K. has two brands: one with P.S.K. in branches jointly operated with the Austrian Post Office and one for its own BAWAG branches. In October 2010, BAWAG P.S.K. and the Austrian Post Office signed a new cooperation agreement under which the entire network would be rebranded BAWAG P.S.K. and 520 branches with integrated bank and postal services would be established by the end of 2012. Under the arrangement, post office customers can take advantage of BAWAG P.S.K. services and vice versa.
ATM: Overall, what was the biggest challenge to the self-service project?
JP: BAWAG P.S.K. had a very tight timeframe for developing and implementing the solution. Besides hardware, the project included setting up operations of the central self-service server as a managed service provided by Wincor Nixdorf. The timeframe was linked to the ongoing branch modernization project and was to be adjusted according to the overall restructuring plan.
BAWAG P.S.K.'s tough timeframe and sophisticated solution requirements demanded an international project team. Wincor Nixdorf created one with experienced consultants and developers from three different countries. BAWAG P.S.K. contributed with a team of specialists who contributed IT, sales and project management skills.
ATM: Can you provide an overview of the IT solution and its components?
JP: The solution is based on Wincor Nixdorf's ProClassic/Enterprise software. ProClassic/Enterprise has a net-centric software architecture and includes a sophisticated set of pre-developed banking functions such as cash withdrawal, deposits and non-cash transactions. The solution was customized to meet BAWAG P.S.K.'s specific requirements regarding transaction flows, corporate design and card-handling.
The core component of ProClassic/Enterprise is the ProClassic/Enterprise server, which provides all the banking functions centrally. Smart-client application modules at the ATMs and non-cash terminals manage the customer interface.
ATM: What Wincor Nixdorf hardware solutions are in place?
AW: BAWAG P.S.K. selected Wincor Nixdorf's ATMs and non-cash systems covering all self-service transactions for the solution. Wincor Nixdorf’s cash-recycling systems as well as its indoor and outdoor ATMs, statement printers and scanning terminals allow BAWAG P.S.K. to offer state-of-the-art self-service to their customers.
ATM: Aside from the self-service zone, do the branches operate as usual?
JP: Bringing postal and banking services together at one physical location is a unique concept in Austria. Based on an agreement between BAWAG P.S.K. and the Austrian Post Office, all staff-operated cash transactions within the branch are done by postal employees as a service for BAWAG P.S.K. This type of business process outsourcing is a unique feature of this particular branch concept, allowing both partners to concentrate on their core services to enhance the customer experience.
ATM: Does Wincor's IT solution extend to the Austrian Post Office's systems, or does it just include banking functions?
JP: Wincor Nixdorf's solution portfolio can support postal services, but the implemented solution focuses on banking functions.
ATM: On average, how long does it take to renovate each branch?
JP: The upgrade takes between 6 and 8 weeks depending on the specific site characteristics.
ATM: How was Wincor Nixdorf better able to serve the bank's needs with its end-to-end solution?
Wincor Nixdorf's business portfolio comprises hardware, software and services. BAWAG P.S.K. sought a single partner with the ability to deliver all components for its innovative "One Branch" concept. The partnership reduced the complexity of the upgrading project by eliminating the need to manage numerous suppliers.
ATM: How does the bank benefit from having Wincor Nixdorf as the sole service provider?
AW: For BAWAG P.S.K., the key benefit is having a single supplier interface that eliminates the complexity of dealing with multiple suppliers.
ATM: What do customers think of the new branch model and its self-service capabilities?
JP: BAWAG P.S.K. has reported very positive customer feedback. Extended opening hours (Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. and, in nearly 80 branches, Saturday 9 a.m.–12 p.m.) offer customers greater convenience. These new branch operating hours meet real customer needs. Furthermore, BAWAG P.S.K can spend more time servicing customers, thanks to the post office managing cash transactions.
For more on this topic, visit the bank automation research center.
BAWAG P.S.K. photo courtesy Wincor Nixdorf
cover photo: gwhiteway