Bank turns to virtual assist system
By St Louis Post-dispatch
Published: Thursday, Jan. 2, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
ST. LOUIS — Meeting with your banker has taken on a new meaning at UMB Bank's Kirkwood, Mo. branch, where a robot and computer monitor are used to conduct some account services.
UMB is one of a handful of national banks that are investing in virtual banking and other technology as more people become comfortable using electronic signatures to sign documents and communicating via video conferencing.
At UMB's Kirkwood branch, and at branches in Kansas City and Denver, customers who want to transfer funds, obtain copies of checks, update their address and other simple transactions can bypass the teller line and use the bank's virtual banker adviser service.
Customers enter a private conference room with a camera, video screen, signature pad and printer. Bob Druse, executive customer care manager at UMB Bank's Kansas City headquarters, appears on the screen and talks with the customer about what forms they need to sign or answers questions about their account.
The technology is “like Skype, only better,” Druse said.
As part of the virtual service, UMB uses LongPen remote robotic signature technology so customers can sign their name on the computer tablet. In Kansas City, a robot holds a pen that's visible to the customer on the monitor and it mimics the movements of the customer's hand, reproducing the signature using ink on a paper document there.
The room's setting is designed to make customers feel like the employee on the screen is in the room, said Shelly Nischbach, UMB Bank's senior vice president and eastern territory sales director. The walls in the virtual banking room and at the Kansas City office and Kirkwood are painted the same shade of gray.
“You forget that he's on a monitor and not in the room,” Nischbach said of Druse. Each transaction lasts about five to 10 minutes.
The 500 transactions UMB has conducted using virtual banking have resulted in a savings of nearly 150 hours for bank personnel. The bank has found it more efficient having a dedicated employee at the ready to handle simple tasks.
Coupled with other improvements at the three branches, it's helped the branches in the pilot program increase revenue by nearly 50 percent.
But the virtual banking service doesn't mean UMB Bank is getting rid of tellers within branches. It also hasn't meant cutting the number of employees at the branches, which have remained constant since the service began.
Since UMB Bank started the virtual banking pilot, it has freed bank personnel to take more time with customers who have more complicated transactions, Nischbach said.
“We're always looking at customers' needs as their needs involve,” she said. “The way that we go about banking, which used to be more transactional, we're moving more toward relationship-based banking.”
The time the bank has saved using the virtual banking tools allowed UMB to meet with and call an additional 1,000 customers, she said.
The bank's virtual technology has been in pilot mode since last year, but UMB is looking at adding it to some of its other branches, including in St. Louis. UMB Bank has two employees in Kansas City who conduct bank transactions for customers using the virtual banking technology, but that number will grow as the technology is added at more branches, Nischbach said.
Several other banks are investing in virtual banking both inside and outside branches. In April, Bank of America introduced its ATM with Teller Assist in Boston, a process that allows customers to press a button on the ATM and speak with a bank teller remotely via real-time video.
The high cost for technology upgrades is a barrier for some banks. ATMs equipped with video capabilities, for example, can cost $100,000, versus about $15,000 for a standard ATM.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sbarro again files for bankruptcy reorganization
- Marcellus shale driller Noble Energy Inc. sinks roots into Pittsburgh
- ‘Fresher, different, lot more fun’ guide changes at Kings Family Restaurants
- Minorities crucial to filling Marcellus shale gas drilling jobs
- Weather worsens McDonald’s sales struggles
- Stocks dip on gloomy data from Asia
- EBay shareholders urged to reject Icahn picks
- 1,500 Bangladesh factories set to be inspected by August
- JPMorgan whistle-blower gets $64M for mortgage fraud tips
- Diaper makers do due diligence
- Regular IRA or Roth? Pick either