At the Edinburgh Financial Conference held during May in Scotland, the Cooperative Bank was awarded the prize for "the most innovative use of self-service technology" for its Bank Point Kiosk program.

Cooperative Bank, based in Manchester, England, boasts a customer base of five million accounts. This year, the bank introduced nine indoor standalone kiosks in communities surrounding Manchester. By Sept. 1, the bank will have 17 kiosks. Plans are in the works to introduce more than 25 more by the end of the year.

On-Screen Representative

At the Cooperative Bank kiosks, customers pick up the phone, select an option, and then a customer service representative appears on a screen. At any point, customer can print out product information on a laser printer to review and even sign documents.

"There were two reasons by Cooperative decided to undertake this venture," said Dale Roberts, an director of insurance sales at Personal Financial System Inc. the Charlotte-based company that developed the technology. "First, it rains a lot in England, and Cooperative wanted to offer their customers an indoor automated alternative. Second, English customers are very used to what's called 'armchair,' or remote, banking and Cooperative wanted to bring a 'face' back into that process."

Uses Digital Phone Lines

PFA's base system, the Attended Sales Machine, or ASM, can handle transactions for most every type of retail account product, including mortgages, checking accounts, and certificates of deposit. It also provides banks with a means to sell mutual funds and other nontraditional products that are best handled by specialists.

Cooperative Bank's system operates through high-performance digital telephone lines using full-motion video.

The bank broadcasts from its service center in Skelmersdale, England. The system offers personal interactive service 14 hours a day.

A number of U.S. banks, including PNC Corp., Shawmut Bank, and Chemical Bank, have introduced ASMs to their customers.

Mr. Roberts said American banks have installed ASMs and interactive video at airports, hospitals, and universities.

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