What To Think About With Cash Recycling Units

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Efficiency is a powerful concept for any business, and retail financial services is no exception. Efficient credit union branches are better at winning new members, keeping them happy, serving them quickly, and doing it at a lower cost than the competition. And with the growing adoption of teller cash recycling technologies, branches may have their best opportunity in years to make a dramatic impact on efficiency.

As tellers make transactions with members, they typically spend a large part of their day counting cash and making trips to the vault to "buy" and "sell" the notes. The more manual tasks are involved, the more time it takes, and the greater the risk for mistakes.

Meanwhile, tellers are put under intense pressure to perform their jobs quickly and accurately. Cash recycling units automate these cash handling processes to help employees spend less time managing money, and more time working face-to-face with members. Put another way, recycling lets technology do what it does best, and lets the humans do what the machines can't.

More Time for Tellers

Cash recyclers accept and store cash in a secure safe at the point where money enters the branch-the member transaction. The machines count, sort, and re-dispense cash mechanically, which greatly reduces the time tellers spend handling cash. Cash recycling also nearly eliminates the "dual control" method required for a teller and a supervisor to visit the vault together.

Each recycling unit on the teller line is an extension of the vault, connected to the bank's computer network to make real-time updates to cash inventories. So rather than take cash deposits to the vault, tellers can recycle incoming cash and dispense the same bills to a member on the very next transaction.

With more time on their hands, tellers are able to complete more transactions, give more personal attention to members, and focus on cross-selling new products.

Teller positions are notoriously difficult to keep filled. Many branches suffer turnover rates of up to 50%, requiring a continually high budget for recruiting and training replacements. This frequent loss of tellers can almost certainly be tied to two factors: low pay, combined with intense pressure to manage cash with 100% accuracy on a daily basis.

By automating most cash handling processes, the teller's job becomes simpler. Since recycling machines ensure accuracy in transactions, current tellers are able to perform their duties with less stress, and new tellers are easier to train.

Simplified Cash Management

With traditional cash-handling methods, predicting the required cash inventory for the branch can be an imprecise guessing game. To avoid being caught short of member demands, branches often stock their vaults with more cash than necessary, which drives up their cost of currency.

Cash recyclers help to alleviate this problem by storing cash in fewer locations and producing more exact electronic reports. With the ability to re-dispense the cash taken in, branch managers can reduce the amount of cash they order each week. And, ultimately, the cost of currency goes down.

Cash recycling significantly reduces the amount of exposed cash in the branch, which decreases the potential for security breaches. Most transactions happen without opening the safe, so large amounts of cash are rarely in plain view.

Moreover, the electronic journal in the cash recycler is helpful in resolving teller balancing differences and customer disputes. And the cash audit trail cuts the risk of internal theft.

Innovative Branch Design

In addition to the immediate benefits, cash-recycling technologies also present several longer-term possibilities that may change the way members view their credit unions. As financial institutions open new branches or remodel old ones, for example, the security features and small footprint of cash recyclers may enable more open, customer-friendly environments. In the future, branches may draw more members with a relaxed and inviting atmosphere similar to a coffee shop.

While the cash automation movement may be in its early adoption phase, there are already a number of recycler manufacturers and servicers that are hoping to set the standard. Before making the investment in cash recycling, financial institutions should fully investigate the options. Here a few aspects to consider carefully and weigh against the branch's specific needs:

* Size: Cash recyclers with a smaller footprint may be easier to integrate into the existing teller line without remodeling.

* Note capacity: The more cash each recycler can hold, the fewer trips tellers have to make to the vault, saving more time.

* Quiet operation: Noisy machines may prove disruptive to tellers and members.

* Currency recognition: Cash recyclers should be able to recognize counterfeit bills, and contain easily upgradeable software to comply as the government introduces new bill designs.

* User-friendly interface: A teller's ability to use the machine with ease is critical to realize the productivity benefits.

* Reliability: Manufacturers should have a proven track record of supplying recyclers with high uptimes and limited maintenance requirements.

In a time of extreme technological advancements, it's amazing to think that financial institutions still handle cash in much the same way they did 100 years ago. To remain a viable delivery channel, today's branches are challenged to keep pace with the efficient and convenient technologies of ATMs and the Internet. Cash recycling may be the most apparent solution to keep brick and mortar branches at the center of the banking business.

Pete Kennedy is director of product sales for Pendum, Inc. For info: www.pendum.com.

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