First Impressions: SunTrust Branch Redesign

First Impressions: SunTrust Branch Redesign
Branch transformation is no longer optional for retail financial institutions. But, the task is enormous and is best undertaken carefully and cautiously. This appears to be exactly how SunTrust is undertaking the task. I had the opportunity to visit a newly redesigned branch in downtown Atlanta adjacent to the bank’s corporate headquarters building. The branch is located in a food court area, with no street access. The food court enjoys significant foot traffic throughout the day, but particularly during the early morning and lunch periods. I arrived there near 7:00 AM and the place was bustling. Outside the branch were two NCR interactive Tellers flanked by two NCR SelfServ 32 ATMs . The interactive teller machines were staffed from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. while the ATMs were available 24/7. The branch opened at 9:00 a.m. Not shown in the picture below is a large interactive digital wall used to merchandize many of the bank’s products and services. STI Branch Redesign The interior of the newly remodelled was similarly non traditional, with a prominent information desk, several private offices and a digital banking bar, where customers could interact with the bank – with or without staff assistance. Well before the branch was opened, a SunTrust employee was stationed outside the branch, greeting passers-by and explaining the new Interactive Teller devices. She courteously explained that the bank was testing the new devices and would welcome my input. In fact, SunTust was promoting trial of the video teller machines through a $5 promotion in return for a short survey following the interaction. The survey was administered by the bank employee using a tablet device. While waiting for my meeting, I struck up a conversation with a SunTrust customer sitting nearby. She was traveling through town and apparently needed access to funds she held in a money market account – something she could not perform with an ATM. Her first encounter with a video teller was apparently satisfying as she left the area smiling and commenting on how it was “kind of fun” interacting with the bank this way. She was on her way at 8:05, nearly an hour before the branch opened for business. In contrast to video teller machines inside the branch, this is a great use-case for the devices in my opinion. Used in this way, the devices add convenience through efficiently extending service hours. Placing the video tellers adjacent to ATMs offers teller interaction when desired, without adding overhead to ATM transactions. But, investing in separate devices with extensive overlapping functionality (not to mention non-working capital tied up in the form of additional cash) isn’t ideal. A better approach requires NCRs forthcoming release that would permit a single device to do double duty. Will this branch design be a win for SunTrust? I have my opinions, but the important thing is that SunTrust is actively experimenting with branch channel transformation. This is something many more banks should be doing.

Personal Teller Machines: The Next Evolution of ATMs?

Personal Teller Machines: The Next Evolution of ATMs?

Last week NCR announced a partnership with uGenius that will result in a new NCR device adding real time video to the ATM experience. The new NCR APTRA Interactive Teller ATM, based on its successful SelfServ 32 platform will add hardware components such as a Speaker, photo ID scanner, signature capture device, microphone and handset along with uGenius software at the ATM and in the back office. The uGenius software will be installed along with NCR’s own APTRA Activate. The announcement did not commit to availability or pricing for the new personal teller machines.

Celent thinks personal teller machines will be the next evolution of ATMs for three reasons:

  • PTMs deliver improved customer intimacy with a modest cost increment over ATMs – still delivering lower per transaction costs than traditional branch transactions.
  • PTMs will broaden the transaction mix versus ATMs – thus far an unproven assertion (I think).
  • PTMs will likely show improved sales lead generation results over ATMs through the more personal interaction with a live teller.

But how and where will PTMs be used? Coastal Federal Credit Union used uGenius PTMs to fully replace traditional branch tellers in its 15 depositoy branches while extending hours of service – and at the same time reduced teller staffing costs by over 40%. An impressive feat! Coastal’s case study is available in a recent Celent report: Branch Banking in a Multichannel World Part III: Case studies in Branch Transformation. But, how many financial institutions will be so bold? We anticipate more surgical adoption such as branch vestibule self-service, mini-branches and replacement of conventional pneumatic drive-through mechanisms.
Coastal FCU's PTM

Coastal FCU's PTM

Regardless of the adoption mechanisms, the partnership is a good thing. uGenius delivered a solid concept and has the market research to suggest strong consumer acceptance of PTMs. But, it lacked the scalability and credibility to win over the larger banks. NCR changes all that. Moreover, the resulting NCR APTRA Interactive Teller ATM will be superior to the uGenius PTMs in several ways. For starters, the devices will be PCI compliant so consumers can authenticate the way they’re used to doing – using a debit card and PIN, rather than relying on a photo ID scanner. And, we expect the units will be fully Check 21 enabled and integrated with legacy teller systems. But these are window dressing compared to the primary differentiator. The new device isn’t just a PTM. It can function as a multifunction ATM or a PTM at the customer’s discretion (if so enabled by the financial institution). So, tellers may not be needed or used for the millions of consumers more than comfortable with self-directed ATM transactions. But for those in need of coaching or just plain preferring a human interaction, the PTM’s remote teller will be at your beckon call. This, in our opinion, is a natural evolution of the ATM.