Get Smart

by Patrick Flanagan

Thanks to cutting-edge digital technology, more and more consumers are banking on ATMs and mobile phones.

The days of traditional brick-and-mortar banking may not be coming to an end - at least not anytime soon - but the way consumers interact with financial institutions is changing.

Greg Hassell

"Consumers are rapidly adopting new technologies that allow them to bank how, where and when they want," says Greg Hassell, a Chase spokesman. "For instance, 50 percent of our customers now prefer to make deposits at ATMs rather than going to a teller line."

Consumer use of self-service ATMs is specifically on the rise. A Mercator Advisory Group survey of 3,001 U.S. adults found that although more consumers still prefer to use bank tellers to deposit checks, increasing numbers of U.S. adults - 17 percent in 2012 and 20 percent in 2013 - prefer to use self-service methods for check deposit.

Heather Keith, marketing director at MidSouth Bank, notes that ATM technology is quickly becoming more advanced and interactive, with manufacturers like NCR and Diebold leading the pack.

Hassell says Chase bank has deployed about 1,000 Express Banking Kiosks in nearly 400 of the 5,600 branches across the country. Although there are currently no EBKs in Lafayette, there are plans to add them.

EBKs include features like large touch screen monitors, the ability to withdraw cash in custom denominations in increments of $1, $5, $20, $50 and $100 bills, and higher daily withdrawal limits separate from standard ATM limits, among other features.

Keith says MidSouth has plans to upgrade to more interactive ATMs in Lafayette, possibly within the year. "An array of neat things other than just custom increments" are offered by the new generation of smart ATMs, she says. "Clients can interact with a banker via a video conference, for lack of a better term, who can answer account questions and even open accounts through [the smart ATMs]."

Heather Keith

Regions Bank's "DepositSmart" ATMs offer more services than traditional ATMs as well. Jeremy D. King, vice president of corporate communications, says approximately half of Regions' machines are now DepositSmart ATMs, which allow clients to cash checks or deposit multiple checks or bills at one time, at any time of the day. In Louisiana, 61 ATMs are DepositSmart.

Jeremy D. King

In addition, King says it adds up multiple bills and checks and calculates the total deposit amount, with no envelope or deposit slip needed. The ATM screen then displays a list of bills and images of checks to be deposited for verification and approval by the customer. Transactions are encrypted and transmitted through Regions' network to help ensure security and reliability.

Chase's Hassell notes that beyond the trending smart ATMs, mobile banking is experiencing incredible growth. In its March 2014 Consumers and Mobile Financial Services report, the Federal Reserve Board confirms an increasing pattern in the purchase of smartphones used for banking, payments and personal financial management, with 51 percent of smartphone users having used mobile banking in the past year, a 48 percent increase from the previous years.

Mobile banking is similar to online banking, and it brings a whole new level of portability since it can be accessed anywhere, any time from the palm of a hand.

Judi LeJeune, public relations director at IberiaBank, says the bank provides a robust line of products and services with mobile banking like its recent launch of remote deposit capture, which allows clients to make deposits using their smartphones. Clients can also download an app for iPads, which allows them to check account balances, view transactions, pay bills, transfer funds and locate ATMs and branch locations.

Judi LeJeune

"In the near future we will be including person-to-person payments in our next mobile banking release," adds LeJeune.

Most local bank reps agree that the human teller isn't going anywhere in the near future. "IberiaBank tellers provide the first greeting and line of service to our clients in the branches. It is an important role in our company," LeJeune says.

"Even with rapid innovation, branches remain the most important gateway to our customers," concedes Hassell. "Nearly 70 percent of our customers visit a branch once a quarter. Increasingly, they are seeking personal service with more complex interactions. So our branches are evolving to meet customers' needs."

MidSouth's Keith agrees that technology is not going to replace traditional banking and says it's designed to complement it.

"Consumers want to interact on multiple surfaces," Keith says. "We want apps, mobile, online and also a relationship with the bank; what banks are working on now is how to make a seamless experience for users."