Long before Sept. 11 and the government's crackdown on money laundering, banks were required to report large cash transactions under the Bank Secrecy Act-a process steeped in paperwork. That's what led Citizens Bank, the largest financial institution in Independence County, Ark., to upgrade its branch teller system.
For over a decade, Citizens Bank had been using Sharp Teller machines in its branches. Because the machines couldn't aggregate, it was necessary to poll each of the bank's eight branches for their daily cash transactions. "This was very time consuming and cumbersome," said Tammy Poole, assistant vice president of teller services at $320 million Citizens Bank.
Maintenance was another problem. "A large number of service companies no longer support the Sharp Teller machine. The Sharp Teller machines are quickly becoming dinosaurs," Poole said.
After a year-long search, Citizens in July selected BranchConnect Teller Suite from Knoxville, Tenn.-based BranchConnect Financial Systems. The product is a Windows-based, 32-bit online teller solution that performs daily teller transactions from all teller workstations. Installation was performed by National Source One, a Kansas City, Mo.-based consortium of system integrators.
Citizens selected BranchConnect Teller Suite because of its Currency Transaction Report, or CTR, module. If the total of cash transactions for a customer exceed a certain dollar amount, a CTR-the form required by the Bank Secrecy Act-can be printed out from BranchConnect Teller Suite. The total cash transactions can be accessed with the customer's tax identification number.
"The bank believes BranchConnect Teller Suite will help in fraud prevention because it's an online system," Poole said.
The software should pay for itself within nine months, mostly from increased revenue from BranchConnect Teller Suite's fee structure. With the old manual system, many of the fees the bank charges non-customers for services like check cashing weren't collected. "With our new system, the fees will be charged automatically, and the teller will be accountable if the fee is not administered. This should drastically increase fee-based revenue," said Poole.
In addition powerful transaction processing capabilities, BranchConnect Teller Suite provides extensive balancing and research tools for enhanced teller productivity, accuracy, and management control. Teller activity can be retained indefinitely, and all data is stored in a standard relational database format for ease of access using industry standard reporting and analysis tools.
Because it conforms to Windows 32-bit programming and Application Programming Interface (API) standards, the product is easily integrated with other open, standards based applications. That helps protect against obsolescence and ensures flexibility to choose from a variety of readily available hardware, software, and networking solutions. Compliance with Windows 32-bit programming and API standards also ensures maximum application performance and stability.
Before BranchConnect Teller Suite could be installed at Citizens Bank, however, the bank had to customize it. Citizens Bank has a Fabulous 50 account, a Max Club (specialized checking account) as well as fee schedules that needed to be integrated into the system. The bank also needed to update most of its hardware. A Space Saver Keyboard from Dalalux (Winchester, Va.) and Entuitive Touchmonitors from ELO TouchSystems (Fremont, Calif.) were ordered for all 30 teller stations. Twenty new Dell PCs were added to the 10 the bank already owned, and were networked together. Network cabling started in August and took a few months to complete.
Tellers were able to learn the new system quite easily, according to Poole. In October, Branch Connect Financial Systems sent two representatives to Citizens Bank. One conducted four hour training sessions, two per day, with ten to eleven people in each sessions. The other installed the software on one PC at each of the branches in order to provide a training tool until the conversion, which took place in November.