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First Federal Installs a Thin-Client Teller System

The First Federal system comprises 400 terminals and a server in each of its 70 branches

For someone who works in the IT division of a bank, Bob Heiderscheit sounds like a heretic.

"I've resisted PCs on the desk since they started out that way," said Heiderscheit, vice president of computerservices at First Federal Savings Bank in La Crosse, Wis. "I thought the biggest waste of processing power was adding full-blown PCs at every desk."

What tellers need instead are "PC applications, not the PC and all the maintenance behind it," he said.

That was the philosophy behind the bank's decision to go with Winterm thin-client workstations from Wyse Technology, San Jose, Calif. and teller automation software from PRODUCT4, St. Louis.

The $2 billion, 70-branch bank had outgrown its controller and terminal-based system, prompting the search for a thin-client successor, or as Heiderscheit put it, "a straightforward teller system that was easy to learn and very intuitive."

First Federal is "very volume-oriented," he noted. "We are very much a retail bank; we're not a commercial bank. What we can't afford is to have a teller who slows down and tries to cross-sell something and do other services beyond the normal teller."

However, most teller automation vendors were merely testing their systems in a thin-client environment. "PRODUCT4 had already done its testing and was actively marketing it. We thought it worked the best," Heiderscheit said.

PRODUCT4 Teller interfaces to any system and provides a strong graphical user interface, with enhanced performance and functionality. Frequent transactions can be established through one-touch speed keys and there are multiple help screens and tutorials.

First Federal has been testing the system for the past few months with no complications and will roll it out over the next eight months, one office at a time. The first went live in mid-October.

Now, instead of 400 PCs, the First Federal system comprises 400 terminals and a server in each of the 70 locations running Windows 2000, giving the bank greater control over the desktop. "We've kind of leapfrogged over a number of generations of technology and a tremendous number of headaches," Heiderscheit said.

Other financial institutions are displaying keen interest in thin-client solutions, according to Daniel Moskowitz, CEO of PRODUCT4. "Many are coming to the conclusion that the client-server architecture deployed in the 1980s and 1990s is too cost prohibitive."

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