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Tellers at two credit unions here have more space to work with-and may project a "slick" image-thanks to a fleet of space-saving PCs and computer monitors.

"The flat-panel monitors and space-saving PCs at our teller lines and new member areas impart an up-to-date look," said Catherine Rando, vice president of technology at $350-million Alliance CU. "Having an ergonomic workspace is one thing, but the look and feel of the units is also very appealing and conveys a better image of technology."

All 60 tellers at the Bay Area-based CU use Cybernet Manufacturing, Inc.'s LCD Flat Panel monitors and Zero-Footprint PCs, a network-ready PC that fits inside a normal-size keyboard. That means nearly 30% of the CU's 209 combined workstations use Zero Footprint, according to Rando.

The 47,000-member, community-based CU has six locations in California and three in North Carolina.

"When we were working to get Y2K compliant in 1999 our tellers had dumb terminals," she explained. To minimize the risk of Y2K catastrophe, Rando upgraded to Windows-based PCs, taking into consideration tellers' limited workspace.

"Our teller stations were very small-and we weren't going to rebuild the stations," Rando said.

Because they don't have to work around additional PC towers, Alliance tellers now have room at their stations for storage or to move around. "The fact that the PC doesn't take so much space is the coolest thing," Rando added.

In addition, Alliance installed Zero-Footprints with flat monitors in the visitor area at its new location in Racine, N.C. when it opened the trendy branch in February 2000. "It's just the image that is so great," Rando said.

In Fort Wayne, Ind., ITT Employees FCU tellers also use Zero Footprints, according to Ted Hoover, Information Systems manager at the $27 million CU.

"Even though the PCs are fast and dependable, that really wasn't the decision-maker for us," Hoover explained. "I like that we don't have to worry about messing around with the tower or the cables under the desk. If you install a tower underneath cabinets, you have to drill holes and pull cables through. When we had to pull the PC out for maintenance, then it was a pain.

Now, if there's a bad connection, we just fix it on top of the counter.

"No more crawling around," he added.

ITT Employees started using one Zero Footprint in 2002, but has since added nine more units to teller stations, said Hoover. "Our tellers needed the additional space more than anyone else, and they also needed the newest machines to perform transactions more quickly."

Hoover said he prefers the streamlined PCs to traditional tower PCs. "We may end up replacing all of our PCs with the Zero Footprint. It's just a lot more convenient."

Cost isn't a barrier to expanding the line of Zero Footprints at ITT Employees, said Hoover. Prices have dropped to $1,000 per unit from $1,200 a couple years ago, he said.

The diminutive PCs come with other perks, Hoover continued. "The PC is so light and portable that you could stick it in the safe with the cash drawer at night."

Furthermore, "tellers love the feel of the keyboard," he said.

Both Hoover and Rando rejected the idea of using laptop or notebook PCs instead of the Zero Footprint design.

"Laptops are too expensive, for one thing," Rando said. "You can't adjust the monitor to the most suitable distance, and the keyboard may not be ergonomic. Plus, laptops can't compete in an environment where tellers are using them eight hours a day because of the heat generated."

Cybernet Manufacturing, Inc. based in Irvine, Calif., provides space-saving solutions for more than 50 credit unions nationwide.

Zero-Footprint is compatible with Windows, Linux and Novell operating systems as well as most hardware.

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