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First Charter Bank Enables Remote ATM Access

First Charter Bank improves ATM uptime with Diebold software suite.

To compete in a region dominated by the largest financial institutions in the U.S., Charlotte, N.C.-based First Charter Bank ($4.4 billion in assets) needed to improve the customer experience at its ATMs, according to Barry Jones, senior ATM coordinator and banking officer for First Charter. While Jones was able to utilize branch staff to monitor many of the bank's 139 ATMs, most of which are from Diebold, nearly half of the machines are located off bank premises, he relates.

Largely as a result of not knowing the specifics of service problems until a technician arrived on-site, First Charter's ATM fleet was experiencing excessive down time. "ATMs were down more than they needed to be," Jones says. The bank needed a network operations tool that would allow for remote access to the ATMs, he adds, noting that it was looking for a tool that would better manage journal files, centralize the operation of the network and increase security.

In mid-2005, North Canton, Ohio-based Diebold approached Jones, a former Diebold technician, with its own network operations solution, ATM Office Suite. Although the bank had an obvious predilection for Diebold, it also evaluated Microsoft's (Redmond, Wash.) System Manager Service (SMS) product, according to Jones. But SMS would have been too costly to implement because of the bank's legacy ATMs, he says, so First Charter signed with Diebold.

Implementation began in December 2005 and took about 30 days, Jones says. The new management system was implemented at the same time the bank conducted its Triple DES (the original standard for ATM data encryption) conversion. Diebold conducted on-site training during the conversion and conducted a conference call with the bank's network personnel to configure the network's firewall, Jones relates. The bank did not have to purchase any additional hardware to run the software, he points out.

ATM Office Suite's software resides on a standard Microsoft Windows server. It consists of four separate modules, which can be bundled together or used separately, according to the company. First Charter utilizes three of the four modules -- Remote Office, Journal Office and Security Office. (The fourth module, Campaign Office, allows users to remotely control the ATM screen.)

Remote Office allows First Charter to connect via TCP/IP to an ATM and can be used to remotely perform maintenance, according to Jones, who notes that it is compatible with First Charter's Diebold ATMs as well as ATMs from other vendors. Journal Office provides quick access to specific ATM transaction inquiries and automatic retrieval of electronic journal data, allowing the bank to simplify journal settlement issues. Jones says this has helped the bank to realize significant cost savings as well as speed settlement.

The Security Office module is a firewall solution for the ATMs. "It pretty much isolates the ATMs from the rest of the network so that only authorized people have access to the ATM," Jones explains.

First Charter's ATMs now run on a 98.7 percent uptime availability, according to Jones. Although the bank did not track uptime prior to implementation, Jones says uptime definitely has increased in the past year.

Further, "The ability to touch an ATM across our network without having to actually be there" greatly improves the bank's overall customer service, Jones adds. Increased uptime, he says, improves customer satisfaction, which enhances the bank's value proposition. * --Nancy Feig

Snapshot

** Institution: First Charter Bank (Charlotte, N.C.).

** Assets: $4.4 billion.

** Business Challenge: Improve uptime of ATM channel.

** Solution: Diebold's (North Canton, Ohio) ATM Office Suite.

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