Uncertainty was the only certainty in 2020, a paradox almost entirely fueled by the coronavirus. Today, more than a year removed from when the threat of COVID-19 went global, that theme continues, as evidenced by rising cases among people who are fully vaccinated and inconsistent guidance from health experts regarding proper safety measures.
For financial institutions, specifically credit unions, their one certainty was technology as interactive teller machines have proved to be indispensable during the crisis. With the Delta variant emerging, FIs continue to rely on ITMs to get back to how things were and reestablish the consistency that their workers and customers crave.
When FIs across the country decided to close their lobbies to walk-in traffic in an attempt to slow the spread of the virus, it forced them to reallocate resources so banking activities could continue safely. But with social distancing measures in place, many banks and credit unions were short-staffed, which raised wait times and lengthened lines at drive-thru windows.
How ITMs helped credit unions during COVID
ITMs enable financial institutions to do more with less. Capable of performing all the functions of a traditional ATM, ITMs go above and beyond; with an impressively wide transaction set executed at a lower cost than those performed in-branch thanks to the self-service first model adopted by some. In short, ITMs can be a high-delivery, cost-effective option for institutions. And as a number of credit unions can attest, their increasing adoption was timely as they helped to plug gaps throughout the pandemic, pinch hitting for personnel who were sick or instructed to work from home.
"ITMs can be a high-delivery, cost-effective option for institutions."
Josh Wade, chief operating officer for Lubbock, Texas-based Alliance Credit Union, told ATM Marketplace that even though they were considered an essential business, a skeleton crew and a cordoned-off lobby made traditional transactions challenging.
"[It] put an increased strain on our drive-thrus," Wade explained. "We had back-office staff working from home and reduced employees on site in order to [maintain] social distance."
Wade added that many Alliance Credit Union members also enjoy the ability to interact with an actual teller, but this too was complicated during the heights of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, since ITMs offer video-based tellers, members were still able to receive the face-to-face interaction that many prefer, albeit in a slightly different format.
"This was a huge benefit for our members, not to lose service and still allow [us] to do what was best for our employees and community," Wade said.
ITMs are increasingly being leveraged by other businesses as well. Be they in casinos, airports, function halls or professional sports arenas, ITMs are turning up in more locations and enabling customers to access their money and other more complex transactions that are beyond the scope of ATMs.
Core integration enhances personalization
But what makes ITMs uniquely convenient for banks and credit unions is how they are integrated. Bancsource Vice President of Sales Adam Hobelmann told ATM Marketplace that the live teller capabilities of ITMs are made possible by a banking facility's core processor seamlessly integrating with the ITM, or ITMs if they have more than one.
"This allows the interaction to still feel like a personal one," Hobelmann added.
ITMs combine self-service convenience with the customer satisfaction that's available through face-to-face banking.
"Polls show customers still want the human touch from FIs."
Some contend that since branch visits are declining in favor of online or mobile banking, investing in ITMs doesn't make sense from an economic perspective. But numerous polls suggest that customers are still very much interested in the human touch that is fundamental to credit unions and community-based banking. Much has been written about branches closing certain locations, but as a poll from American Banker found, 40% of Generation Z and millennials still physically visit their local branch to address their banking needs. Among baby boomers and the silent generation, close to 60% said in-person banking was something they continued to do. ITMs enable banks and credit unions to blend the digital with the physical, or "phygital," as it's come to be called.
Hobelmann told ATM Marketplace that the combination of 24/7 banking and the phygital that ITMs embody makes investing in the technology a smart choice from a practical point of view, to say nothing of the economic advantages.
"ITMs and other digital channels will allow you to place a full service automated banking location almost anywhere and at a fraction of the cost of a traditional brick and mortar facility," Hobelmann said. "It also allows you to use a more efficient hybrid strategy at the branches you are already in."
He went on to say that the reliability that ITMs delivered for credit unions throughout the pandemic, and ever since, suggests they will be relying on the technology more often to ensure they meet members' needs.
If convenience, consistency and cost-efficiency is what you're after, ITMs deliver. But you don't have to take our word for it — seeing is believing. Contact BranchServ Convergint to arrange a free demonstration.