Telepresence: The ROI on Collaboration
But PDAs and laptops aren't the only places bankers are plugging in to talk to each other and their clients. Teleconferencing, or telepresence, is making a strong play as well.
"Up to this point, [video] conference collaboration tools [have been] available as a means to solve something," explains Gregory Royal, CTO and EVP with Cistera, a Dallas-based provider of convergence servers for IP telephony. But, "We're working with financial institutions to see where this kind of collaboration can be used. Unfortunately, these are the types of tools that often get cut from budgets because you can't always demonstrate ROI."
According to Wachovia's Mattox, however, the bank is realizing significant cost savings from Cisco's TelePresence technology. The bank has telepresence rooms set up in its Charlotte headquarters and other locations. "We recently had calls where the heads of the lines of business were able to conduct meetings concurrently with these locations," he relates. "It's very high-end technology. Picture three 65-inch high-definition flat panel screens where it looks like the parties are all in the same room. There's also well-integrated surround sound. This is an investment that has proven to be a significant cost saver."
Mattox points to avoided travel as a major source of savings, noting that his group tracks those numbers on a monthly basis. Though he declines to offer specific figures, he says, "We are able to list hard-dollar savings, not to mention the amount of time these leaders would lose to travel when they could otherwise be working."
"This technology is definitely getting better, and telepresence solutions are gaining demand," says Forrester's Silva, who points out that the solutions provide more than simple videoconferencing abilities. "You're sharing applications, video and voice all in one system. This is a collaborative solution that unifies communication to provide information to and about one party to another. These things are practical solutions for a bank because of the high premium on touch in the business."
Proceed With Caution
Despite the benefits of emerging telecom technologies, however, Forrester's Silva says banks have been slow to adopt innovative solutions. For example, "Banks are reticent with their mobile plans," he asserts. "We do a survey of telecommunications and look at the top seven industries around networking and mobile deployments. Financial services has been the lowest adopter of Wi-Fi technology. This is usually due to the fact that they deal with sensitive information, so they're more cautious."
But such prudence is warranted, Silva concedes. He points to privacy and security regulations such as Sarbanes-Oxley and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards as good reasons for banks to proceed with caution.
"Due to regulatory demands imposed upon [banks]," adds Heartland's Smith, "it's a good thing that they approach telecom slowly."