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By Jim Olney, Manager of Strategic Analysis, Alloya Corporate FCU

In today’s world, it’s common to meet virtually on a video conferencing platform with colleagues, clients, board members and grandparents alike. Odds are your credit union team has shared many remote interactions with members over the last 18 months, perhaps even for a mortgage closing.

Is this a temporary practice or here to stay? Only time will tell, but since most people have found their bearings in this virtual world, it’s looking likely that video meetings will be added to the rolodex of options for member communication.

That is certainly the case for financial institutions like Consumers Credit Union in Kalamazoo, Mich., who replaced all their teller lines, drive thrus and ATMs with Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) or, as Consumers calls them, TellerPlus+ stations. With over 100 TellerPlus+ stations up and running, Consumers is a front-runner in ITM usage.

ITMs are like ATMs, but with a tech-forward twist. They combine the interactive power of video conferencing technology with easy-to-use touch screens to enable credit union members to enjoy a virtual version of the in-person banking experience. Like Consumers, a growing number of Alloya’s credit union members have implemented ITMs, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, although Consumers had already dipped its toes in the ITM waters well before COVID-19.

In 2016, they implemented two TellerPlus+ stations, which were affectionately named “Thing 1” and “Thing 2,” and were strategically placed inside the office (as opposed to the drive thru) to help coach members through their first teller interactions. While this certainly added a level of comfort for members, Consumers Credit Union’s Vice President of Operations Lindsay Land offered up a seemingly counterintuitive piece of advice for other credit unions: Start with the drive thru.

“When given the option, we felt members would gravitate toward what they were comfortable with,” Land remarked. “So, a traditional teller line wasn’t even an option when the first machines debuted inside.”  

What members didn’t realize, however, was that the TellerPlus+ stations were not pre-programmed robotic machines. The stations are operated by a team of live representatives who facilitate member transactions through a video conference call, much like Zoom, Teams or FaceTime. At Consumers Credit Union, these employees are called TellerPlus+ team members. Today, most of their tellers work from the credit union’s corporate headquarters or from home, whereas in 2016, the team members operating the first machines were often stationed within the very same office as the machines.

“When a member would question it, the teller would come out from the back office and say, ‘Look! I’m a live person!’ The member would be awestruck,” Land stated.

When the pandemic arrived and the credit union’s office lobbies closed, Consumers seized the opportunity to renovate their locations and overhaul their teller lines. Land reflected on the opportunity stating, “As an organization, we were trending in that direction – to create a consistent experience for members with TellerPlus+ stations at each office. The pandemic just expedited that transition process. Our members and staff needed safe, contactless ways to take care of their banking activities, so overhauling our offices with TellerPlus+ stations was the obvious solution.” Today, Consumers proudly operates 101 TellerPlus+ machines.

Leveraging technology to better serve members is not new to the financial services industry. While ATMs, home banking, mobile banking and check image capture are no longer considered “new” technology solutions, they all emerged with the same goal in mind: to make it faster and easier for people to access financial services remotely. To put it simply, ITMs are the next phase of this ongoing process. They converge the technology of video conference calls with the convenience and security of an ATM… 

Read the rest of this story at www.alloyacorp.org/the-truth-about-itms to learn the full truth about ITMs and how to get started if your credit union is thinking of jumping on the bandwagon.