You may have used videoconferencing to connect with friends in other parts of the world, and soon, you may be using the technology to connect with your bank teller.
John Adams at American Banker covered the banking industry's embrace of new applications for the technology in his recent article, "The Shrinking Bank Branch." The piece highlights a few forward-thinking financial institutions that have already begun to experiment with giving their account holders personal interaction from a screen.
The concept is fairly simple. Rather than pay to staff financial experts at smaller banks with less traffic, some banks can cut costs while giving account holders easy access to the same expertise. Other banks such as Pittsburgh-based Dollar Bank are using videoconferencing technology on their ATM screens. Instead of standing in a long line waiting for a teller, account holders can interact with tellers based in a remote location.
Many customers have been reluctant to embrace some of the tools that save banks money, such as online and mobile banking, and understandably so. The banking industry hasn't been able to prove that these channels are secure. While I don't know much about hacking into a videoconferencing chat, I would expect that these provide a very high level of security; big companies use this tool all the time for confidential internal meetings. For customers who want security and the personal touch of a live teller, videoconferencing seems to be a win-win scenario. Banks save money, and customers get what they want.
My colleagues have written about the decline in bank branches before, and it's no secret that many customers are continuing to prefer the convenience of managing their money without the hassle of traveling to a location. However, I think we have a long way to go until account holders have absolutely no reason for branches. Be on the lookout for banks to continue to develop new ways to connect with customers while shredding some of the traditional costs of managing eight-hour teller shifts at all of their locations.
What do you think? Would you be comfortable substituting the teller in front of you with a teller in a videoconferencing center hundreds of miles away?