First Arkansas Bank and Trust has moved the ubiquitous drive-through teller window inside.
In a move to serve more customers with fewer tellers, First Arkansas has set up two walk-up banking units to support its branch in the Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Jacksonville, Ark.
The units use technology from Diebold Inc. to funnel transaction documents and funds back and forth from customer to teller.
Larry T. Wilson, president and chief executive officer of $205 million-asset First Arkansas, said the Diebold technology replicates the advantages of drive-through banking by letting one teller process transactions for two customers at a time.
"We wanted to accommodate transactions, but also use less personnel," Mr. Wilson said. "It cuts down on waiting time, and the money is still behind locked doors."
Diebold's Remote Teller System, developed in 1996, is really just a tweaking of the old-fashioned pneumatic tube system.
Seeking to develop an in-store banking system with real-time customer service, Diebold, an automated teller machine manufacturer in Canton, Ohio, realized it had been neglecting pneumatic technology. While a system of pipes through which objects travel by the flow and pressure of air seemed quaint, Diebold remembered that drive-through banking still relies on pneumatic tubes.
The Diebold system uses closed-circuit cameras instead of windows. As with any household appliance seemingly from "The Jetsons," the customer simply walks up to the module and speaks through the screen. Though the tellers are in a booth behind the remote bank, customers cannot see them.
Randy Benore, Diebold's director of product management and planning for physical security and facility products, said the pneumatic tube-powered modules are not exactly a state-of-the-art innovation. "The idea actually came about in the late '60s," he said.
Mr. Benore said that until recently, the necessary technology was too expensive and cumbersome to make the product worth developing. "Now pneumatic tube systems and closed-circuit TVs have come down in price," he said.
Mr. Wilson of First Arkansas said the walk-up units are helping the Wal-Mart branch make the most of its square footage. The discrete modules, which connect to tellers in an undisclosed part of the building (in this case, behind a wall), also help the store branch concentrate more on sales.
So far, the machines have been successful, Mr. Wilson said. "Our customers were intrigued by the technology and they embraced it. I've had no complaints," he said.
As of now, First Arkansas has no plans to deploy the machines at any of its six other Jacksonville branches. "I don't know that we'd want to use it in any of our stand-alone branches," Mr. Wilson said. "When people come to a branch, they expect to interact face-to-face with a teller."