Mellon Bank Corp. announced on Tuesday that it plans to install in all its 450 branches interactive terminals that visually link customers and bank employees.
The move is one of the most aggressive deployments to date of noncash video terminals for banking, experts said.
Video terminals are "the classic technology that's in everyone's branch of the future and nobody's branch of the present," said Robert Landry, a consultant specializing in branch automation at the Tower Group in Wellesley, Mass.
When installed, the terminals will give Mellon "a more effective way to provide our customers with face-to-face consultation about their financial needs with appropriate experts," said Martin G. McGuinn, vice chairman at Mellon.
Mellon officials said the video terminals - essentially PCs placed in cubicles to protect users' privacy - make it easier for customers to use bank products and services.
Currently, a customer applying through a Mellon branch for a mortgage must make an appointment to meet with a customer service representative. At a branch equipped with a new terminal, the customer can sit down and speak immediately with a mortgage expert.
In addition to mortgages, customers can use the terminals for services related to investment products, private banking, demand deposit accounts, consumer loans, and small-business banking.
"The experts have been centralized at Mellon for quite some time. Really what we're doing is providing access to them whenever the customer needs it," said Rosemarie Moschella, a vice president.
Having a visual connection to the customer service representative makes many customers more comfortable doing complex transactions, bankers said.
Mellon already has rolled out the terminals in about 85 Pittsburgh branches. The rest should be equipped by the end of next year.
Bell Atlantic developed the software for the terminals and provides the integrated services digital network over which transactions travel. Two other companies, Teloquent and Picturetel, also provided technology for the system.
According to research from the Tower Group about 75 of the top 100 banks will have installed self-service information terminals by the end of this year.
However, experts said only a small number of these are planning short- term to equip their terminals with two-way video.
The expense of video technology has been a hindrance in the past. But video communication and software cost reductions may encourage more financial institutions to install terminals like those at Mellon.