As the virtual world and the physical world continue to merge, financial services businesses are bringing innovation to banking by leveraging technology to reimagine and change processes that were once unthinkable.

Banks handle large amounts of cash, creating the omnipresent temptation for opportunists and criminals to take advantage of the situation and steal cash or commit fraud. Until recently, banks believed the best protection in the retail banking environment against these threats was having two people work together, providing the business with an increased margin of safety and reducing theft and fraud.

This safety comes at a price, however. As the average bank size grows, the cost of staffing increases significantly. Having two people perform functions that technically can be done by one weighs heavily on the bottom line.

Utilizing technology,innovative companies, like 3SI with their Safe Banker mobile app, and QDS Inc. with their teller cash recyclers, are dramatically changing the way the retail branch operates by simplifying and automating the many manual processes that previously required staff. The cost savings are significant when multiplied across dozens or hundreds of locations.

For example, the Safe Banker mobile app from 3Si acts as a second person would when opening and closing branches, connecting the employee to assistance if needed and tracking the opening process. Instead of having two people onsite, it is possible for one person to open the branch with the same amount of safety. The phone acts as an extension of the bank’s security system and can connect the employee with assistance via the “panic button” feature or video conference with the security monitoring company. The app, in addition to enabling single person opening, provides electronic notification when various activities are completed to all branch employees, keeps an audit trail, and provides employee notifications to other staff members and audio/video panic calls wherever the employee may be in the building. Integrating the technology is relatively straightforward, and the reduction in staffing more than offsets the cost of the service.

“By integrating technology into the teller line function, tellers can literally walk away from their teller station and provide vastly improved service”

Technology is also remaking the cash handling aspects of banking, as the traditional teller line is dramatically changing. The teller line, long a fixture in banking, provides both a work surface for tellers and an impediment to would-be thieves. By integrating technology into the teller line function, tellers can literally walk away from their teller station and provide vastly improved service.

In this example, teller cash recyclers (TCRs) act as an electronic teller, counting the cash and verifying the amount for both deposits and withdrawals. Since it is integrated into the bank’s accounting system, it provides a faster, more efficient process, effectively eliminating errors when handling cash. This has the added advantage of reducing time and effort. For a withdrawal, the TCR provides the cash required for the transaction and the teller simply hands it to the customer. With deposits, it functions similarly; the teller inserts the cash, and the TCR verifies the amount. Gone are the teller drawers and the constant manual counting of currency and moving cash from the teller line to the vault.

By leveraging technology, financial service companies can reduce fraud and simplify audit. It is in customer service that the advantages become apparent to the customer and to the bank’s bottom line. The technology frees up team members to provide the human interaction and one-on-one counsel that makes a bank more valuable to customers, while providing opportunities to reduce the staff required in the branch at any given time – a plus in current times, when staffing shortages are creating challenges for all banks.

These two technological advances alone can result in hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in savings to a mid-size bank while reducing fraud and theft and improving efficiency. The promise of technology, long utilized in online banking, is now making its mark on the physical world of financial services.