February 01, 2007

It's been less than a year since Kansas City, Mo.-based Commerce Bank ($13.7 billion in assets) completed the rollout of its new online teller platform, but the process began almost seven years ago. Although Commerce is progressive in terms of technology, according to Chuck Kim, the bank's EVP for retail administration, it wasn't until recently that the teller line was brought up to speed. Previously, Commerce tellers relied on Sharp Electronics (Osaka, Japan) machines, which looked liked 10-key calculators, he relates.

"Our search [for a new teller platform] started far in advance of a purchase decision," Kim explains. "The [search] process took almost three years."

Commerce had a comprehensive list of requirements for its teller platform -- at the top was a thin-client system that would allow for global management. "Many teller automation solutions we reviewed were still very dependent on branch-level servers and maintenance," Kim says. "We were looking for a solution that provided an ability to control business practices, standards and access in a central environment."

Thin Is In

Commerce narrowed the search to four thin-client solutions, ultimately selecting Getronics' (Amsterdam) Globalfs teller automation product in October 2003. The decision was based on Globalfs' flexibility, according to Kim. "Getronics is able to leverage its open architecture and Web services capabilities to integrate with our legacy systems," Kim says. "It allows us to update the system as needed to meet evolving customer and market requirements."

Prior to implementation, Commerce developed a specifications document detailing the requirements for each element of transaction processing. The bank also purchased PCs and monitors for teller stations and additional servers from Dell (Round Rock, Texas) to support the new teller platform.

The system code was initiated using the banks' specs, followed by a joint testing effort among IT staff from Getronics and Commerce, which included Commerce's most-experienced tellers and members of the operations staff. "This approach allowed for early exposure to the system and provided a broader view of the system to gain quality feedback and suggestions," Kim says.

Commerce deployed Globalfs in two pilot branches, which processed transactions for about three months before the platform was deployed to additional branches. Companywide implementation began in mid-2005 and was completed by May 2006, according to Kim.

Prior to branch conversions, teller training, conducted primarily online, included transaction simulations. Market-level implementation support teams received more-comprehensive training. "This allowed each market to have a small group of specialists who were prepared to answer more-complex question during the rollout," says Kim.

Since the implementation, the bank has seen a 30 percent increase in referrals stemming from the fact that the tellers have more information at their fingertips, according to Kim. The online training also cut down training time for new tellers from two weeks to one, he notes. And customer satisfaction has improved. Customers love receiving receipts, Kim points out. "The receipts are a big deal," he says. "[Customers] love the idea that the deposit is on their account when they walk out of the branch."

Teller Automation

***Institution: Commerce Bank (Kansas City, Mo.).

***Assets: $13.7 billion.

***Business Challenge: Improve efficiency and service with centrally managed teller platform.

***Solution: Getronics' (Amsterdam) Globalfs teller automation platform.

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