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Kiosks Cure Bank's Sign-Up Woes

Franklin National Bank installs Internet-wired kiosks in four branches.

Although Franklin National Bank's online banking program is successful, getting people started with it was awkward. The problem was customers couldn't sign up at a branch; they were on their own with their home PCs.

The Franklin, Tenn.-based bank came up with a solution: Franklin eTellers, Internet-wired kiosks that debuted in four Franklin branches between December and February.

The kiosks house monitors displaying the bank's Web site (www.franklinnetbranch.com). Customers log in with a password and use the site as they would from home. Besides letting them sign up for online banking, the kiosks allow them to monitor accounts, pay bills, view check images, print statements and more.

Customers aren't charged fees for these transactions, as they might be at a teller window, and it gives them immediate access to information rather than sending documents through the mail. "Part of our strategy is to get customers to use something other than the teller," said Richard Herrington, president of Franklin Financial Corp., the bank's parent.

The kiosks serve people who don't have home access to the Internet, but with some safeguards.

A phone on the kiosk connects callers to the bank's customer service center if they have problems. Keyboards can be damaged or stolen, so the system uses only a touch screen. To protect customers' privacy, an infrared motion sensor tells the Web site when a customer steps away; the computer then clears account information from the screen, returning to the bank's home page. The only Web site available is the bank's; the kiosks don't allow surfing.

Franklin National worked with two companies to create eTeller. Atlanta-based Equifax is the bank's Internet banking software supplier. "We include them in anything we do," Herrington said. Integrated Solutions Group (ISG), in Brentwood, Tenn., is a hardware and software vendor that builds turnkey Internet-enabled kiosks for several industries such as retail, said ISG spokesman Ryan Smith. Franklin is its first banking client.

With the four kiosks costing less than $30,000, eTeller was a modest investment for the bank, according to Herrington. The units were too new to provide meaningful data on customer usage, he said.

Franklin National is weighing whether to equip all nine of its branches with kiosks. Some branches serve lower-income populations that are less computer savvy and the kiosks may not be well received there, Herrington said.

Bank officials were uncertain about how eTeller will evolve, except that the goal is for eTeller to enhance Franklin's existing services. Kiosks may someday contain several screens, or Franklin may install them in locations other than bank branches, such as shopping centers or college campuses, Herrington said. That would essentially provide Franklin customers with 24-hour access to their accounts without venturing into a branch, much like ATMs do.

Herrington mused whether the kiosks would someday include ATMs, melding Internet and cash access. "I don't know where it's going to take us down the road."

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