When customers walk into one of Academy Bank’s new branches, a banker will guide them to a screen where they can video chat with a specialist at Academy’s headquarters in Kansas City. Through the use of video terminals, the bank can serve more customers in less time and, according to CEO Paul Holewinski, video banking has cut the average in-branch transaction time in half.
The video chat kiosks allow Academy Bank to increase the number of customers it’s able to serve and allows it to extend staff members’ capabilities in areas where it has fewer employees on staff. Holewinski said the goal is for customers to self-serve without having to wait in long lines at the bank every time they need help. It’s also a means to encourage more customers to turn to digital and mobile banking for their everyday financial needs.
At the bank’s headquarters, about 12 video bankers are servicing customers throughout its network of 72 physical locations. For more complex inquiries, such as personal loans or mortgages, customers can use private rooms to connect with experts. In-branch staff, called concierge bankers, can assist customers with tech-related issues.
Academy Bank joins other large institutions using video to expand service levels in branches with fewer bankers. For example, Bank of America‘s “advance centers” include iPads and video conference rooms to enhance service levels. Others, including Citibank and JPMorgan Chase, also have been adding tablets and video to appeal to digitally comfortable customers. As customers engage digitally, bankers on site can focus on relationship development.
Despite the appeal of video, its success will depend on whether customers will use it in large numbers. Bob Meara, senior analyst with Celent, recently told Bank Innovation that video banking needs a high adoption rate to generate a positive return on investment.
According to Meara, smaller banks should focus on secure messaging. “Text conversations are asynchronous,” he said. “A banker could be engaging more than one member at the same time. You can’t do that with video.”
For customers who don’t choose to communicate through video, Academy Bank’s team of video bankers also can respond to written questions that come through online banking. According to Holewinski, video banking is a helpful stepping stone in the bank’s digital evolution. “We believe that once clients experience how fast, easy and personal video banking is, they will be more inclined to try digital banking and other self-service solutions,” he said.
For more complex transactions, video banking is not yet an option. For example, a mortgage customer would still need to fill out a traditional mortgage application and get a pre-approval letter. “At this point, the consult rooms are primarily for initial conversations and provide a venue to speak with an expert,” Holewinski said.
Holewinski said the idea for video banking came from a visit to a car rental facility three years ago, when he was able to skip a long line by using a self-service kiosk. After realizing the service was available for banks from technology vendor NCR, Academy tested out drive-thru video banking at two locations about two years ago. Around that time, the bank began retrofitting high-volume branches with video banking kiosks.
So far this year, the bank has added four video branches, with two more on the way. By the end of this year, Holewinski said the bank will have about 10 of the new, video-heavy branches.
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