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Money Matters: Do You Really Need a Bank Teller Anymore?

Banks are making high tech moves that are changing how ATMs work.
LITTLE ROCK, AR - Big changes may be coming to a bank near you. ATM machines are getting upgrades. They're tossing out old technology in favor of redesigned kiosks that will let you do more, all without waiting in that teller line.

It's all a push by the banking industry to improve the ATM experience.

Bill Dietzler is a retired priest who embraces technology almost as much as he does the Bible. When he saw his bank's new video conferencing ATM, he was curious about the man behind the screen.

"I found it to be fascinating. You get more done and it's just, it's simpler," he says.

At banks like Bill's, the kiosk isn't just for getting cash. Video conferencing with representatives in call centers lets banks extend hours for basic services. Screen tellers can handle about 95 percent of typical bank transactions.

"Now that expert, whether that be a loan consultant or a financial planning consultant, that person can be available across a widely dispersed geography," explains Frank Natoli, Chief Information Officer with Diebold, Inc.

It's just one innovation you may notice at a machine near you as ATMs get technological upgrades. It's something industry insiders say is long overdue.

"When you think of an ATM, maybe you think something from like, the 90s. That sort of experience is something people don't want anymore, because it seems stale," says banker Mary Wisniewski.

Now, banks are working on tech tools to give customers new, faster ways to interact with their branches.  ATMs with touch screens will soon work with our smartphones. New apps will help zip cash to you as quickly as you can snap a picture.

"To be able to take your mobile phone and to pre-stage a transaction on mobile and then be able to go up to the ATM and very, very quickly finish that transaction," Natoli says.

And there's more. Banks are installing tools at ATMs that will enable you to pay bills, send money to friends, and request to up your ATM limit, even after hours.

"You can start to use that now for bill pay, you can start to use it for peer-to-peer transfers, and any number of things when you start thinking about it as an in and out endpoint in the ecosystem," explains Natoli.

Does all this mean the end of the traditional teller? Experts say they're not going anywhere anytime soon. There are some transactions you still need to do face-to-face.

"It's really shifting the job of a teller, not eliminating it because they're still there for customers with questions about their needs and can refer products and services as well," says Susan Doyle, Vice President of Bank Operations with North Shore Bank.

As for Bill, he loves all the change, and encourages others to embrace it.

"Technology is a gift that we have in this time and I don't see why people don't use technology in everything that's reasonable," he says.

Increasingly too, credit unions and banks are starting to load ATMs with 1, 5, and 10 dollar bills. It's just another development that might keep you from that teller line.
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