Much of the new technology being developed for community banks promises not only to do the job better, faster, and cheaper than that of the past but also to do it with a little human touch.

At the Bank Administration Institute's national conference on community bank technology here, community bankers were dazzled by a variety of hardware and software products that hold out the prospect of serving customers better than ever before. But unlike yesterday's technology, much of today's has the ability to automatically further and maintain personal relationships with customers.

A new automated teller machine being developed by NCR Corp. of Dayton, Ohio, is just one example. Like all cash machines, NCR's latest offers the ability to get cash, make deposits, and check balances. But what sets this machine apart is its ability to learn the customer's banking habits and make helpful suggestions during later ATM visits.

For example, if a customer takes out $50 on a regular basis, the ATM will greet the user with a friendly message, asking the user by name whether he or she would like to make another $50 withdrawal. Based on customer profiles stored in the bank's data base, the ATM can also customize pitches for home or auto loans. The machines even wish users a happy birthday when the transaction date matches the birth date on file.

"Other ATMs would not know them or treat them as individuals," Rick Byrne, an NCR spokesman, said at the BAI conference.

Aside from having a brain and a personality, the latest generation of ATMs builds relationships by offering a lot more than cash. NCR's machines can dispense stamps, airline tickets, and lottery tickets.

Top-of-the-line machines can also offer Internet access to millions of customers who have yet to make the leap into cyberspace.

A software product being developed by Shawnee, Kan.-based Harte Hanks Interactive also promises to help build customer relationships. In an "adding value to your Web page" presentation conducted by Harte Hanks senior vice president Cathy Allin, bankers were shown an interactive Web site feature that learns customer preferences and enables one-on-one, real-time communications.

The system relies on a data base that holds customer profile information. As customers visit the site, a special software program tracks each page visited and product or service purchased. The software then downloads the information back to the data base, where information is compiled to make a personalized pitch to the customer for additional products and services. The benefit of this package, Ms. Allin said, is that "you're starting to build a relationship on-line with your customer."

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