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Why Is There a Person in Your ATM?

"It's actually worked out very well for us, because the in-branch management isn't focused on what's going on behind the teller line," Mecca said. "We were really looking at streamlining and optimizing the teller function."

CFCU reports positive results from the digital shift, including increased sales across its branches as well as a higher rate of turnaround for its tellers. Mecca said that the credit union can also operate with less staff now; since it no longer needs to dedicate personnel to rarely visited locations, each teller's time can be used more efficiently.

All of this comes as no surprise to Greg Kelly, a principal with Deloitte consulting who has specialized in the banking industry for the last 24 years.

"I think that this trend will continue," he said. "A number of banks already use video in their branches, and a number of them have moved from click to chat to click to video on your PC at home... Depending on how savvy the user is, you can do almost any transaction and you don't need to walk into a branch."

As part of Deloitte's consulting team Kelly has written on this subject before, including a 2012 article in the Wall Street Journal titled "Is it Time for Real-Time Banking?" The issue for the banks, he says, comes down to cost. (

"When you do a mobile transaction, it's about 10 times less than the cost of an ATM transaction," he said. "When you do an ATM transaction it's about 50 times cheaper than a branch transaction. Banks are always trying to move the customer to the lower cost channel."

The switch to videoconferencing is another step in that direction, allowing banks to achieve through low-cost ATMs functions ordinarily reserved to a branch. Although Burke declined to comment on the costs and savings of Bank of America's Teller Assist program, the external numbers speak for themselves. A 2010 report by Deloitte indicated that banks could reduce costs by as much as 80% per transaction by moving customers from a branch to a traditional ATM, and CFCU's experience with video-enabled machines bears this out.

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