Bank of America announced this week it will soon roll out videoconferencing with tellers at its ATMs.
The new service, dubbed "Teller Assist," will allow BofA customers to speak to a teller via the screen on their ATM. Initially, that teller will be able to cash checks and perform withdrawals in a variety of denominations, including small bills such as ones and fives, dispensing the cash remotely through the ATM.
Eventually, the remote tellers also will be able to deposit checks and provide cash back, split a deposit into two or more accounts, and receive loan or credit card payments for ATM users.
But the new service's "killer app" may be the hours of operation, says Michael Besselievre, senior director at Cornerstone Advisors, a financial industry consulting firm in Scottsdale, Ariz.. The video tellers will be available anytime from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends, much longer than typical bank hours.
"They've been able to expand the time frame to where you can go up to an ATM and actually talk face-to-face via video through this technology," he says. "They've always had the call center, but with the call center you're limited to being able to talk to someone, and you couldn't make deposits, etc."
BofA isn't the first bank to implement video conferencing at ATMs, says Besselievre, but it may signal that the technology has arrived and will likely be making its way into the ATMs of other major banks.
"The idea's been around for quite a while. There were some early attempts going back at least 10 years, but the technology and the bandwidth wasn't there to support it effectively," Besselievre says.
BofA and other large banks have led the way on ATM technology in an effort to increase efficiency and cut costs, he says. Having tellers in a central location helping customers remotely, rather than standing around in branches waiting for customers to come in, is one way to do that.
"You'll see higher adoption of this technology, but while everyone talks about the death of the branch, you're still … going to need to talk to somebody and be able to talk in person to somebody, so I don't think it's a death knell for the branch or anything like that," he says.
The video tellers may improve the bank's customer experience and help it serve consumers who aren't entirely comfortable feeding cash into an ATM without some kind of assurance from a real human being, he says.
"It gives them a little more comfort that they can bring somebody up on the screen," he says.