The Top 5 Tech Innovations Your Bank Can’t Ignore—and Why

Digital channels have without a doubt re-shaped the banking world—and they’re not only rapidly developing but often intertwining as well. A recent Federal Reserve report found that 53 percent of smartphone owners with a bank account had used mobile banking in the past 12 months, and Accenture’s 2015 North America Consumer Banking Survey reports that consumers think online and mobile channels are the most important tools in which banks should invest.

But while the growth of online and mobile banking does not appear to be slowing down, pouring investments entirely into digital channels is a mistake. It boils down to a question of which tools will move banks ahead: That is, where is the money best spent?

The answer begins with the customer. As consumers increasingly rely on online and mobile banking channels, their standard for in-branch banking is changing. A bank might offer the most high-tech app out there. But if the technology within its physical branches does not match this level of sophistication, its customers’ in-person experiences will surely disappoint. Since consumers today might visit a branch less frequently, when they do bank in person, it’s critical to provide a pleasant, convenient experience.

Whether implementing new technology or applying existing tools in new ways, these technologies hold the key to creating a modern in-branch experience customers appreciate and enjoy. So as the role of the branch continues to evolve, banks should be ready to embrace five key technological tools:

1) Wider Application of eSignature Technology

Digital solutions shouldn’t just refer to remote, online or mobile transactions. While allowing customers to sign documents electronically from their home or office provides the utmost convenience, implementing eSignature solutions within the branch also creates a more dynamic experience. More banks wisely use tablets in branches for customers to complete and sign a wide array of documents that run the gamut from simple account openings, to change of address forms, to loan documents. With eSignature technology, banks can hand customers a tool they’re comfortable with – a tablet – rather than paperwork to fill out in the lobby. Not only will the customer enjoy a more expedient experience, but the bank can also drastically reduce the costs and time associated with paper documents.

2) Electronic Receipts Sent Directly to Customers’ Inboxes

Consumers are accustomed to the question, “Do you prefer a printed or email receipt?” Retail stores, doctors’ offices and even restaurants give customers this option – and now, customers expect this from their banks. Consider as well how many times you’ve requested a copy of a receipt before losing it or dropping it in a parking lot. And beyond convenience, emailing bank receipts to customers also bolsters security. Banks can better protect an individual’s sensitive financial information using electronic receipts.

Let’s look at cash-back transactions as one example. Banks can combine electronic receipt technology and eSignatures, meaning tellers no longer have to waste time scanning and processing receipts to track customer transactions; documents are automatically stored the instant the transaction takes place.

3) Continue Embracing Check 21

Effective in 2004, Check 21 (short for the Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act ) is certainly not new. However, many banks have thus far failed to take full advantage of more recent Check 21 trends that include teller level capture. By truncating checks immediately at the teller line, employees can remain in a balanced state throughout the business day and spend less time at end-of-day closing. Using teller-based capture this way also affords an elevated level of fraud protection – something every bank is mindful of today. By eliminating the risk associated with deposited items, banks also provide enhanced availability of deposited funds to their valued customers.

4) Leverage Electronic Workflows

While banks increasingly embrace electronic workflows to manage and streamline internal processes, it is important to weigh how this technology applies enterprise-wide. Electronic workflow allows banks to automate functions in accordance with regulatory guidelines and internal governance standards. Additionally, employees need not memorize the next steps for every process. Rather, workflow technology ensures that each step happens in the correct prescribed order and that required fields and signatures are not missed. Compare that to traditional, paper-based processes, which are of course prone to human error.

Automated workflows limit that susceptibility to common mistakes that create process delays. For instance, with electronic documents and workflows, employees no longer have to manually choose which step or task to perform next. The business rules defined within the workflow system push the transaction automatically to the next step and assign it to the correct person. As an added benefit of workflow technology, new employees require less training and can focus on their customer service goals.

5) Automated Tellers

Various organizations have now introduced innovative options for in-person banking that might not involve actual people. They’re referred to as “interactive teller machines,” “personal teller machines,” or “virtual teller kiosks,” and many banks are exploring investments in these technologies that combine the in-branch and digital experiences. A consumer can complete a transaction in a self-service fashion quickly, but has easy access to a bank representative if needed. Automated tellers are incorporating several other in-branch innovations, including eSignature, electronic receipt and workflow technologies, enabling a fully electronic transaction process to occur from these innovative devices. Because this technology is inherently similar to the ATM – a tool customers use with ease – adoption of this technology in branch is an optimal way to make small tasks that once required a teller’s interaction more convenient for customers. In addition, allowing customers to complete self-service tasks at an automated teller in the branch allows branch staff to spend more time focusing on relationship building and new business development.

Some might argue that there may come a day in which the branch will no longer be relevant. We are certainly not there yet, and won’t be any time soon. Whether customers choose to visit the local branch for a simple task such as depositing checks or for something more complex, such as to receive financial guidance and services to open a new small business, they expect a modern, friendly and convenient experience. By enhancing the technological tools with which customers interact inside a branch, banks can become one step closer to creating a seamless, omnichannel experience that maximizes efficiency and satisfaction for every customer.

Michael Ball is vice president of markets and strategy for IMM, a provider of e-signature and automated transaction technology.