Major banking innovation arrives in FD

First American Bank has installed a new interactive system

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen First Amerian Bank President Susan Ahlers Leman, at left, along with finance services representative Bernardette Schultz and Natalie Newell, vice-president of retail banking, look over the newly installed Interactive Teller Machine at their east Fort Dodge location. The device lets the bank's customers complete their ITM transaction with a live representative on the video screen.

First American Bank has served Fort Dodge for more than eight decades. During that long history the banking world has undergone numerous changes. According to Susan Ahlers Leman, market president in Fort Dodge and senior trust officer, the bank has long taken pride in bringing the latest banking innovations to the community so it could better respond to the evolving needs of its customers.

“We have a rich history of being an innovator in delivering financial services to the community,” she said. “We offered the first free drive-up teller service in 1953. In 1962, we had the first motor bank in Fort Dodge. In 1976, we were the first bank in Fort Dodge to install its own computer system. In 1993, we offered the first ATM in Fort Dodge. Now we will be the first bank to have the ITM as well.”

Excitement is growing at the bank as it prepares to launch our town’s first ITMs – interactive teller machines – at both its downtown and Crossroads locations.

These state-of-the-art devices will make it possible for the bank to offer interaction with tellers more hours each day and afford certain additional benefits not currently available through its drive-up windows or at traditional ATMs.

The new mechanisms resemble an ATM but also have a screen that makes it possible for a bank employee to interact with the customer. The system also will have capabilities not now provided at the drive-up windows it has long operated.

-Messenger photo by Hans Madsen First American Bank universal banker Julie Andresen, at left, along with financial services representative Bernardette Schultz, unfurl a banner featuring the hours a live banker via video link is available at the new Interactive Teller Machines.

Customer convenience will be greatly enhanced because the hours of service will also be much more in sync with people’s busy lives, Leman said.

“We will expand our business hours at the ITMs to from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays at both locations,” said Natalie Newell, vice president, retail banking. “During those hours, you touch the screen and a live person comes up. It is an extension of our team using interactive video bankers. They will help our customers like any one of our tellers would if you walked into the banks.”

Leman underlined the importance of the extended banking hours.

“A lot of people can’t get into the bank during traditional banking hours,” she said. “We are really trying to expand our availability to clients. The other thing that I think is kind of cool is that as of now, there are no other banks downtown that are open on Saturdays.”

There will a variety of capabilities not available through the traditional drive-up windows.

One of these is the ability to make a much larger withdrawal.

“You can’t distribute out more than $500 in cash at the drive-ups whereas with the ITM a person could obtain up to $5,000,” Newell said.

This is possible because the security arrangements possible as part of the ITM system are much more sophisticated.

“We can scan a driver’s license and it’s all on video,” Newell said. “Because of that a customer can get more money out than a regular teller is allowed to do.”

Another security improvement relates to checking for counterfeit bills.

“It has the immediate technology to check that versus somebody just looking at it,” Leman said.

The longer service hours at the ITM are a major benefit, but there is more to the story.

“It also expands hours so every transaction that is done is on the current business day,” Newell said. “At a lot of banks, it might be 2 p.m. or 4 p.m. that their business day cuts off. Ours will be 7 p.m. for current business day.”

Customers depositing a large number of checks will gain an additional advantage from the new service.

“One of my favorite things about the Interactive Teller Machine is that when you make a check deposit or a stack of checks, your receipt will actually have a picture of the face of each of the checks that was deposited into your account,” Newell said. “So, it’s wonderful for recordkeeping because you can always go back and refer to those receipts. You don’t get the pictures of the checks at the drive-up window.”

Someone who is seeking to cash a check drawn on First American Bank but who is not also a customer of the bank will also benefit from the new system.

“Currently those customers can’t do it through the drive-up.” Newell said. “Now with the machine being able to scan their driver’s license, they will be able to cash those checks.”

The ITM option makes it possible for a customer to do almost anything that could be done inside the bank.

“Basically, anything that I walk up to a teller inside our bank and do with a few exceptions, almost everything I do face to face with a teller I’ll now be able to do with a live person on the ITM screen beginning at 6 in the morning all the way to 7 p.m. at night,” Leman said. “They can make cash deposits, cash withdrawals. They can ask about their accounts.”

At hours when the system’s interactive features aren’t available, the ITM will function like a normal ATM. For both the bank’s customers and people who are not First American Bank patrons the system can be used as a traditional ATM at any time of day. Unless they touch the screen, a video banker will not be summoned.

The eight First American bankers who staff the interactive system are all located at a bank location in Clive. These personnel handle transactions at the six First American Bank sites in Iowa that currently offer this innovation.

At least one of those faces on the screen will be familiar to Fort Dodgers.

“One of the former Fort Dodge tellers was promoted and now works out of the video-banking area,” Newell said. “So some of the customers who used to see her here when they walked in will now see her again when they use the ITM.”

Anyone concerned that this technological improvement could reduce employment opportunities at the bank need not be worried.

“No one is being laid off,” Leman said, noting that new training is taking place. “They’ll have broader, more global abilities to meet clients’ needs.”

The ITM capability began at the Crossroads location on Friday and will begin downtown on Tuesday.

Recognizing that getting familiar with new technology can be intimidating, the bank will make the process easy its customers.

“For at least two weeks after these go live, there will be First American Bank employees outside all day by the ITMs to help people learn how to do it and to celebrate this launch,” Leman said.

She stressed that in evaluating each banking change the team at First American Bank gives how the modification will impact customers careful consideration.

“We want to look for ways to meet the clients’ needs in the time that is most convenient for them,” Leman said. “We recently re-worked our website. We have mobile banking for folks who have that as their preferred banking method. We continue to have our live folks inside the building.”

She said this latest change is consistent with the bank’s forward-looking game plan.

“We see this as a crucial role in our growth strategy.” Leman said. “We want to continue to grow and meet the needs of our community. We think this allows our tellers and current staff to focus on building relationships with customers and connecting them to our products and services. We’ve been here since 1934 and we are very committed to our community and believe that the financial investment we are making in technology is an indicator of that fact.”

She said the new hours downtown are very much in harmony with the renaissance taking place in that sector of the community.

“As downtown continues to thrive and develop, we think it is important to meet the need on Saturdays downtown. We already have Saturday hours out at our Crossroads location.”


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