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Interactive teller machines allow tellers to work remotely

Tracey Newbery speaks with a teller located in Mountain Home while using an interactive teller machine in Boise. Photo by Benton Alexander Smith

Tracey Newbery speaks with a teller located in Mountain Home while using an interactive teller machine in Boise. Photo by Benton Alexander Smith

Pioneer Federal Credit Union has started using interactive teller machines, ATM-like machines with video conferencing capability.

The machines allow tellers to work from remote locations and can control functions such as cash dispensing from a computer. They allow banks or credit unions to run several drive-through locations or small branches using just one staffed office.

“They allow credit unions and banks to widen their footprint without a high cost,” said Scott Fieber, former account manager of the company that wrote the software for the machines.

Pioneer is the only financial institution using the machines in Idaho. Cook Security Group is installing the machines over the next two months at two more financial institutions that the company wouldn’t name.

More than 300 financial institutions nationwide use the machines.

“Some financial institutions have placed them in drive-up locations while others have put them on campuses and in hospitals,” Fieber said.

Ron Hunt, southern Idaho territory manager at Cook Security Group, which installs the machines for financial institutions across Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Arizona, Montana and Idaho, said the machines are a way to keep tellers safe from robbery. He added they’re also more efficient than opening a traditional branch with walk-up windows.

“These machines help banks open on a Saturday without having anyone at the branch locations,” he said.

The software that allows interactive teller machines to function was created by a Salt Lake City-based company called uGenius, a producer of video banking software. NCR, a leading manufacturer of ATMs, acquired uGenius in 2013 and married its own ATM hardware with uGenius’ video software.

The technology has been around for about 10 years, but uGenius has only had about 30 customers across the United States during the first six or seven years, Fieber said.

“It works the same way as your traditional drive-through except you don’t put money through the vacuum,” said Tracey Newbery, Pioneer Federal vice-president of branch operations. “The teller comes up and controls the machine. All the customer needs to do is put the cash in.”

Pioneer Credit Union installed two of the machines last year at its new Broadway Avenue location in Boise, and has since installed the machines at its main office in Mountain Home, an express branch in Mountain Home, and a branch in Twin Falls. The credit union will also install the machines at two branches in Boise and Caldwell late this year.

Newbery said the staff members who use the new machines work at a central location at Pioneer’s administration department.

“It allows us to open more locations with less staff,” she said. “Before there were drive-through locations we couldn’t open on the weekend, but with this we can provide longer hours and open more locations because it is more cost effective.”

Pioneer Credit Union employs three tellers for the back end of the interactive teller machine transactions and will hire a fourth before the Caldwell location and the second Boise location install machines.

“Some branches are placing dog treats and suckers out on the machines because that’s about the only thing they can’t do that we could do before at our drive-through,” Newbery said.

Hunt wouldn’t say how much it cost for Cook Security Group to install an interactive teller machine and software, but said it costs about twice as much as a traditional ATM. That is only for the first installment though, Fieber said. Once a financial institution has the software system running it can bring new machines online for about the  price of a regular ATM.

About Benton Alexander Smith

Benton Alexander Smith is a reporter for the Idaho Business Review, covering the Idaho Legislature, new business, technology and financial services.