Conestoga Bank

Expanding through video-enabled teller machines

By Beth Mattson-Teig

Conestoga Bank in Chesterfield, Pa., is proving that adopting the latest technologies isn’t just for the big banks. The $625 million-asset bank was one of the first community banks to debut video teller machines to its customers last year. The units have been so successful that the bank has added two additional units and is continuing to evaluate expansion opportunities across its 14 branches in the greater Philadelphia area. Conestoga Bank introduced two personal teller machines (PTMs) to its downtown Philadelphia branch in June 2012 and installed two units at its new Bankwerx at Gateway branch in Wayne, Pa., in April.

The PTMs connect bank customers to a live, remote teller via a two-way video/audio conversation through an ATM. The video tellers can handle the same transactions as a traditional teller, such as deposits, withdrawals, check cashing and transfers between accounts.

To make the transition smoother for customers, Conestoga Bank has made a point to hire tellers who are comfortable using the technology while still offering the same level of service to customers as a traditional teller. The service tellers who staff the PTMs in Conestoga Bank’s operations center are bank employees, and in most cases they are tellers who have experience working with customers in traditional branch locations.

“What we really like about the video teller machines is that it does introduce the technology, but also keeps that personal touch,” says Lori Adamski, executive vice president and chief operating officer at Conestoga Bank. “You are still talking to a live person. They are just not standing in front of you.”

As the PTMs offer greater convenience to the customer, Conestoga Bank benefits from added efficiencies and cost reductions. The video teller units allow the bank to offer extended teller service hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, compared with traditional branch lobby hours running 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

As more customers use the video teller units, it frees up staff within the branch to focus on other tasks, such as selling additional products or services or reaching out to new customers. In addition, Conestoga Bank expects to gain staffing efficiencies as it continues to expand the network of video teller units.

Initially, the bank had one teller manning each video teller unit. Now there are two tellers in the back office who together staff the four units.

The video teller systems fit into Conestoga Bank’s broader vision for modernizing the bank branch and redesigning retail banking for the future, says Ron Bernas, vice president, consumer sales at Conestoga Bank. The bank has made a practice of embracing new technologies. In 2011, it was one of the first banks in the country to launch a comprehensive mobile banking strategy, including the ability for customers to make check deposits via their smartphones.

“Being a smaller community bank, we have a lot of flexibility to be progressive and introduce technology more quickly than a lot of our competitors,” Bernas says.

Technology has grown to play a bigger role in how people live their lives. At the same time, banking has too often stayed relatively the same—clinging to traditional processes, Bernas says. Those prevailing trends prompted executives at Conestoga Bank to ask how the bank could use technology to deliver more convenient banking services to customers. The bank’s answer was to get rid of the teller queues and the red velvet ropes and try to make retail banking more self-servicing and more in-tune with technology.

Today, more people are banking with mobile devices and tablets. “Now with these personal teller machines, people can still use the technology and do their normal banking transactions, but do it in a hipper, cooler way and still have that live person on the other end who is able to service their banking needs,” Bernas says.

Beth Mattson-Teig is a writer in Delano, Minn.

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