Banks that have discovered teller staffing tools say they are running more profitable branch operations.

Compass Bank, of Birmingham, Ala., said it recently cut 108 full-time tellers and is now saving 12% annually in salary expenses and 45% in benefit costs.

Similarly, Summit Bank, of Summit, N.J., said it reduced its teller staff of 4,000 by 120 through attrition, and that it has increased teller productivity.

To achieve their results, Compass installed software from Demos Consulting Group, Duxbury, Mass., while Summit turned to a service bureau offering from Financial Management Solutions, Atlanta.

The companies, both eight years old, gather and analyze teller transaction data to help banks forecast future volumes so they can staff accordingly.

"The biggest part of improvement is better scheduling," said Michael Scott, co-founder and managing principal of Financial Management. "We're showing management the costs associated with doing that."

Financial Management hooks into the host computers of its bank customers to track teller activity along a number of dimensions, including by pay rate, time, day, branch, and region.

The data serve as the basis for forecasts of future daily volumes, as well as monthly labor-cost analyses. Supervisors can then schedule tellers by matching full-time and part-time personnel to transaction volume forecasts.

By compiling data from its 60 bank customers, which support 2,000 branches, Financial Management also lets institutions compare the output of their tellers to those of other financial institutions.

"No one else does this as a service bureau and also offers benchmarking data," said Mr. Scott.

Demos offers teller scheduling software on an in-house basis. Its 25 customers have about 5,000 branches, and include BankBoston, Chase Manhattan, Citicorp, USTrust, and Wachovia Corp.

In addition to analyzing branch transactions, Demos' software can examine how often customers are banking at other outlets, such as automated teller machines, personal computers, and call centers.

The Windows-based Demos software allows "our clients to manage and maintain their own data and be more proactive," said John Keogh, director of program marketing.

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