Tech Time: Luck or Foresight?

cars in busy credit union drive-thru lanes
Contributing Writer
member of Bellco Credit Union

2 minutes

Wisconsin credit union leverages branch technology both old and new to serve members through the pandemic.

“We were lucky,” says CUES member Tammy Pelletier, COO of $448 million United OneCredit Union based in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. What she means is that United One CU got unexpected help during the branch closures from technology the organization had already put in place with no thought of a pandemic. In this case, the credit union was employing two young men who were about to go off to college as video tellers in the contact center. They were productive. They wanted to keep working, and the CU wanted them to.

So together, they crossed the bridge to work-from-home banking. United One CU set up the right equipment in the house the two college students were renting. “It worked out really well for us,” Pelletier reports. “They worked opposite shifts. Then the pandemic hit, and we used that model for sending some of our branch tellers to work from home. IT went to work to set them up with stations. We needed to ensure privacy, and we wanted it to look businesslike, so we found appropriate background panels that could hook on the back of the teller’s chair.”

Pelletier predicts that some tellers will come back to branches and some will continue to work from home, but that has yet to be worked out. “We don’t know what’s coming with the virus, so we’re not in a hurry to bring them back to our branches,” she observes.

“When COVID-19 occurred and we had to close our lobbies,” she continues, “we used the pneumatic tube stations primarily for drop off and pick up but also for transaction overflow from our ITMs (interactive teller machines),” she explains. “This allowed our tellers to assist departments from across the organization and serve members for all kinds of needs while continuing to social distance. We had discussed removing them as outdated technology, but they came in handy during COVID lobby closures. It was good to have all of our options.” The credit union no longer has any conventional ATMs.

United One CU has 16 ITMs, which they often call PTMs, or personal teller machines—eight of them in branch lobbies and eight in drive-thrus, Pelletier reports. “We have cold, snowy winters, so it’s more comfortable to introduce members to the PTMs in a lobby, but we had [staff] go out and stand in the lanes to show members how to use them in the drive-ups,” she explains. Seven of the eight machines in lobbies were not available when branches were locked, but one in the newest branch was in a vestibule that remained open. The machines are interactive from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays, she says, giving United One CU “the most teller availability in our market.”

Richard H. Gamble writes from Grand Junction, Colorado.

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