In what could be the ultimate banker's fantasy, the $29.4 billion- asset Union Bank of California (UBC) opened what it calls the equivalent of a 5,000 square-foot branch in a high-traffic retail location, on 135 square feet, with zero staffing. Located in an up-scale mall in Redondo Beach, CA, the branch has ATM and videoconferencing capabilities so that it can do almost everything a full-service branch can do, including--courtesy of Sony technology--providing investment advice. If customers can't get the answers they need by wending through the offerings tucked inside the video screen, they're eventually connected, face-to-face, to a fully informed customer service representative qualified to, say, open a new account or take a loan application.

Though the video kiosk seems to have everything, it's mainly a marketing experiment, says Linda Odenath, UBC svp in charge of convenience banking. "We expect to learn a lot from this first one," she says. "(So far,) we've been successful in moving people towards self-service and opening new accounts and applying for loans. It's one of our busier ATM locations and exceeding our expectations."

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