The Smart Financial Express

My project focuses on the opening of new branches that use Interactive Teller Machines and the conversion of existing branches to this ITM technology to take the place of a traditional teller line.

In 2013, Smart Financial started talking about the possibility of opening a “cashless” branch, and analyzing the current market trends surrounding the declining number of teller transactions across all institutions because of Remote Deposit Capture and deposit friendly ATMs. After much thought, consideration and hard work, we decided to move forward with this concept and opened our first Express branch in January of 2014 in Spring, TX. This branch location was strategically picked to give a large amount of our membership a more convenient location to transact business with Smart Financial. Additionally, it was much cheaper, and was much quicker to get up and running than in a traditional branch build, and it also allows the credit union to more quickly and efficiently expand our branch network to better serve our members.

These branches have Interactive Teller machines that use video chat technology to interact with the member. The members just touch the screen and are able to interact with our virtual tellers to make their deposits, withdrawals, cashier’s checks and the list goes on and on! The member can do everything at these machines that they would normally do with their teller. We wanted to create this new concept without limiting what we could offer to our members.

Our Virtual Tellers are housed centrally and are able to take transactions at all the locations where machines are located. If there are no transactions at any given time, they are able to help with other tasks and help out other departments, making these employees very efficient with very little downtime.

Other benefits of this technology include a decreased chance of robbery, typically quicker transactions and a more unique transaction experience.  It also reduces a huge amount of the operational duties and tasks as compared with a traditional branch. Without the operational burden that comes with having to manage a teller line and cash, our platform staff has the ability to assist our members with their other financial needs more easily and efficiently.  It also allows the management staff much more freedom in developing and coaching their staff to better serve our membership.

Obviously, there were many concerns with making this drastic change in the way we open new branches. The main concern was that our members would hate it, not want to use and end up leaving the credit union.  There were many opinions that certain groups of our members would not like the technology and would revolt. With these concerns in mind, we strategically hired energetic, extroverted, technically savvy individuals.  With our awesome staff constantly present to help our members with the machines, we have had very little opposition to this change and many of our members actually prefer this way of transacting with us.

After the great success and member satisfaction at our Spring location, we decided to move forward in our express journey and opened our 2nd Express branch in October of 2014 in Missouri City, TX.

Since then, we have also opened locations in Pearland and Houston, and will soon be converting our first existing traditional branch. As time goes on, we will continue to seek out opportunities to expand our branch network and convert our existing branches to this concept. We have proven over the last two and half years that this is a successful concept and that this is the direction Smart Financial will continue to go in.

My passion for this project will not fade! I live and breathe it every second, of every day, and will continue to do so!

Chris Conway