In what could be described as a COVID-19 comeback, the bank drive-thru is in vogue once more.
When the pandemic struck, lobbies closed their doors to "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of the highly contagious virus. As a result, the drive-up became a lifeline for thousands of financial institutions throughout the country. The hum of idling motors were proof positive of the drive-thru's resurgence, as were the flurry of calls to third-party banking service providers. Indeed, as The Wall Street Journal reported, drive-thru-related equipment service calls rose 42% in April and May compared with the average of the previous year. And sales orders for carriers shot up 300% over the same period of time as institutions responded to the surge in demand.
"ITMs proved to be the dividing line between some financial institutions and their competitors."
But it wasn't just pneumatic tubes and deal drawers that got a workout at the drive-up during the lockdown. The same was true for advanced technologies, such as ATMs and interactive teller machines (ITMs). As demand accelerated, the capabilities of the ITM proved to be the dividing line between some financial institutions and their competitors. Indeed, this is where some had the opportunity to truly shine.
Just ask Nelson Teixeira, Vice President and Director of Digital Banking at BankNewport in Rhode Island.
What are ITMs?
ITMs are advanced terminals that enable users to optimize their banking experience via the power of expanded choice.
ITMs can manage a wide variety of teller transactions without assistance. That said, terminals also have a live-video option that allows customers to speak to a bank teller, who can then address their needs remotely. From account withdrawals to moving funds from checking to savings, machines can seamlessly handle just about any request they would normally perform in a traditional, face-to-face setting. It's all done in real time too if the bank or credit union leverages technology that is core integrated.
And, much like ATMs, ITMs can be placed anywhere, from the vestibule to the lobby to isolated service locations separate from the branch.
"ITMs can be placed anywhere, from the vestibule to the lobby to isolated service locations."
They can also be leveraged in the drive-thru, which is where BankNewport has a line-up of MX7800 Hyosung machines from BranchServ which they dub "Personal Teller Machines." In the years preceding the pandemic, BankNewport established its PTM footprint, an action that proved to be prudent given what happened in 2020.
"The PTM at the drive-up window was the difference in distinguishing us from our competition," Teixeira explained. "[They] allowed us to continue servicing our customers without major disruption. We were one of the only banks locally providing ITM video banking drive-up service."
ITMs let customers try self-service first
While ITMs may indeed be in their relative infancy — especially as compared to ATMs, which have been in use for well over 50 years, according to the ATM Industry Association — more financial institutions are investing in the technology than ever. In addition to the wide assortment of actions that go beyond check-cashing and fund transfer, ITMs provide an efficient way for branch customers to complete transactions on their own. This is attributable to the highly intuitive and expansive menu of options that allow users to perform a variety of functions without the assistance of a teller. Indeed, over 95% of interactions do not require any kind of video assistance, but it's there for customers if or when they need it.
ITMs also help to keep lines much shorter, since they serve as their own channel and handle automated actions on behalf of the remote teller, like counting money.
As it turned out, BankNewport relied heavily on its ITM channel, with the vast majority of transactions occurring here as the closures continued into the latter part of the year. Teixeira pointed out that because the company was able to let customers know that their PTMs were up and running, account holders took advantage.
"Our customers were able to complete 85% of their transactions from our ITM banking service channel," Teixeira said.
Are ITMs here to stay?
Some question whether ITMs are a flash in the pan — a technology that may have all the bells and whistles but will ultimately peter out once the novelty wears off. But Teixeira doesn't share that opinion. If anything, he anticipates that the best days are ahead for the ITM. In short, they're the "it" ATM for the foreseeable future.
"Our data is showing that our numbers for ITM banking remain strong since we've opened our lobbies," BankNewport's head of digital banking added, noting that most of its lobbies fully reopened in March of 2021. "Our ITMs continue to be one of the primary customer usage channels here at our bank."
Although BankNewport had every intention of increasing ITM investment prior to the pandemic, the positive reception they've received from customers has given the company a sense of reassurance that their money is well spent.
Teixeira said BankNewport has sixteen ITM units at present but is planning to install as many as 10 more over the next 18 months or so.
If you haven't considered an ITM for your branches, now's the time. BranchServ is an industry leader and can pair you with the machines that will fuel your drive-thru's capabilities, or anywhere else you decide to deploy them. And that's not the only drive-thru transformation we can help your branch with, read our case study or contact us today to learn more.