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New, high-tech way to open account

By Claes Bell, CFA · Bankrate.com
Thursday, June 6, 2013
Posted: 11 am ET

Banks have made a lot of progress on using technology to make customers' lives easier through mobile banking capabilities such as remote deposit capture -- that is, depositing checks via a smartphone camera -- and ATM locators.

But even when opening an online bank account where you'll probably never walk into a branch, there still comes a point where you have to fire up the old fax machine to send in signed paperwork and documentation.

If you're the kind of person who likes to move your money around to capture the highest available interest rates on a regular basis, that can be a major pain. Banks hate it, too, because it means they lose a large percentage of business when potential customers shrug their shoulders and decide they'll stick with their present institution because they don't feel like dealing with the hassle.

At the 7th Annual Mobile Banking and Commerce Summit this week in Miami, Syngrafii, a developer for Cisco, showcased a videoconferencing solution with a high-tech twist.

Instead of placing a phone call and exchanging documents via fax to open a checking account, the user can download an app that will connect them with a customer service representative via videoconferencing. From there, the rep can walk them through the forms they need to fill out and sign, which the user does on his or her tablet screen.

Remember, I said there was a twist? That twist is a machine with a robotic arm that copies the user's inputs to fill out and sign the form using an actual pen. That form is then considered legally binding, allowing the account to be opened just as if the customer had filled them out in person in a branch, according to Boris Koechlin, CEO of Syngrafii.

At least one large bank, Citizens Bank, is trying out the service, along with a package of videoconferencing tools sold by Cisco, in a pilot program.

What do you think? Would you prefer videoconferencing and filling out forms remotely to going into a bank branch or exchanging faxes to open an account?

Follow me on Twitter: @ClaesBell.

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