The Journal Gazette
Sunday, June 16, 2019 1:00 am

Tech simplifies banking

Mobile services, video tellers make transactions click

SHERRY SLATER | The Journal Gazette

Banks and credit unions have a high bar when evaluating new technology.

They adopt only those things that meet strict security standards and make banking more convenient for customers.

Kristin Marcuccilli, STAR Bank's chief operating officer, keeps those criteria in mind when considering which hardware and software to invest in.

“Customer expectations surrounding convenience, security and ease of use have dramatically shifted in recent years, and we've adapted our offerings to meet evolving needs,” she said. 

STAR's latest technological advances include drive-up video banking machines, also called interactive teller machines. Think of them as advanced ATMs.

The video banking machines, which are staffed remotely from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. six days a week, allow customers to speak to a live teller and do almost anything they could do in a branch, including “cash a check down to the penny,” Marcuccilli said. 

Many customers prefer to do their banking in pajamas, however. Their financial institutions have responded by offering online options and apps that make smartphones another means for transactions, including paying bills and transferring balances.

3Rivers Federal Credit Union promotes such offerings to its members.

“With our mobile technologies, 3Rivers is in your pocket, your purse, or the palm of your hand – giving you the ability to decide when and where to manage your finances,” the Fort Wayne-based credit union says on its website.

“With a few simple clicks, you can open an account, transfer balances, check your credit score, pay your bills and so much more,” 3Rivers says of its mobile banking app.

Such offerings are common among big banks, including Chase, Wells Fargo and PNC.

Last month, Warsaw-based Lake City Bank began offering person-to-person payments to its mobile banking customers through the Zelle Network.

David Findlay, Lake City's president and CEO, said in a statement that offering the service “is an important step in our commitment to provide technology-driven solutions to our customers.”

Although most STAR customers open checking accounts in person, some have requested the ability to open accounts and apply for loans online, Marcuccilli said. The Fort Wayne-based bank has adapted to offer electronic signatures and e-document delivery, she added.

South Bend-based 1st Source Bank's online offerings include the ability to open certificates of deposit, individual retirement accounts and health savings accounts.

Advanced analytics allow financial institutions to track spending and detect anomalies that could indicate identity fraud. When a suspicious purchase is made – did you really just buy 5,000 pounds of raw shrimp? – the software triggers a real-time customer alert.

Brian Avery, STAR's technology operations manager, anticipates even more connection between the bank and customers' digital assistants in the near future.

“We'll likely see increased integration of banking services and technology into the Internet of Things or smart devices,” he said. “Smart refrigerators that can automatically order your groceries for you, but only if you have enough money in your bank account first.”  

Marcuccilli expects payment processing will speed up in the next five or 10 years until it becomes real time. “No more waiting for money to move overnight or over the course of several days via check,” she said.

The banking industry is also moving to adopt security using biometric authentication, such as fingerprint, face and iris scans, she said.

With all those out-of-branch options, it might seem like brick-and-mortar locations are unnecessary. Not true, say Avery and Marcuccilli.

Having a branch near one's home or work is still the leading factor when consumers select a bank, Marcuccilli said.

“While the in-branch activity might be less frequent,” she said, “having a location nearby brings peace of mind when life events occur that call for in-person advice or consultative services.”

Avery acknowledged that more customers are comfortable banking remotely.

“However, STAR has the pleasure (and responsibility) of working with customers during major life events like buying a home, planning your retirement, or opening your first bank account,” he said.

“In these instances, many customers aren't just looking to complete the task,” Avery said. “They want someone who can guide them through the process, answer questions and help calm any fears.”

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