The KEY-OSK to LOANS

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Here in the Last Frontier, Credit Union 1 is exploring some frontiers of its own.

The credit union has installed motion-detecting information kiosks aimed at speeding up lending, and also to highlight the high-tech, modern new look of the CU itself.

"We wanted something that was a modern interface to apply for loans," said Credit Union 1 Marketing Director Joseph Morrison.

Morrison said the $500-million credit union wanted to create an open, retail-type operation for its 50,000 members spread across the nation's largest state. Credit Union 1 built the five-story building to house the administrative staff and a retail branch. Within that branch are the new kiosks, which reflect the color, style and mood of the new building, according to Morrison. Morrison said the first floor has a large, open look similar to a retail store or a mall, accompanied by normal teller and loan operations located in any branch. The four new iBank kiosks with touch screens are in the lobby so members can help themselves at their own pace. CU 1 President Leslie Ellis said a retail approach to financial services meant creating a fun environment with large bright images, plus the new kiosks.

"When you offer financial services, you're in the retail business. Part of that is offering interactive delivery channels, like the kiosk," Ellis said. "If Barnes & Noble has something interactive, where you can go in and listen to a CD, why shouldn't a financial institution? They'll do it that way rather than fill out a paper form (for a loan)."

Lobby visitors can use the touch screens to join Credit Union 1, apply for a loan, surf the Internet, and check out listed resources. Morrison reported that the average time for kiosk use has been 18 minutes per user.

"We allow members to sit down and surf away if they want," he said.

On the second floor of the CU 1 headquarters building, the lending department and administration are housed and more technology is in plain view. A news ticker runs headlines that can be seen outside the building; flat-screen televisions were hung on the walls and video details the products and services of CU 1 while members use the kiosks for online banking or to browse the employee directory. On the third floor still more kiosks are used for residents wishing to join the credit union or file an employment application.

Since the October 2005 launch, nearly 200 people have used the kiosks with almost 30 clicking through to apply for a loan, Morrison said. The self-help kiosks serve as a separate portal to CU 1's existing web-based loan application software. If a member types in loan information, it won't have to be manually entered into the CU database by an employee, decreasing the application response time.

"It's a little more efficient," he said. "The members are still getting used to it."

Each kiosk has motion sensors that instantly switch from scrolling CU 1 advertisements to the member service introduction page when a member approaches and will also end a user session on its own if a member forgets to log off. Morrison said he highly recommends the iBank kiosks and added that so far, there was no typical member using the kiosks with young and old both surfing the net or looking for CU 1 information. Whether it's due to long winter months or its huge distances between towns, Morrison said Alaskans quickly took to the Internet and are very tech savvy.

"We know our members are using it, we see them there. This is where the world is going," he said.

Portsmouth, R.I.-based MontegoNet, which offers the iBank kiosk, entered the credit union market in July of 2005 through a partnership with CUTech.

For info: www.ibank-kiosk.com.

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