The sprawling geography of Australia can create real headaches for financial services employees and its customers. With video conferencing technology connecting our headquarters and branch offices, the Holiday Coast Credit Union (HCCU) has saved at least 20 hours per week in travel time, improved staff productivity, and dramatically enhanced our member experience.
HCCU serves communities along the mid- to north-coast of New South Wales. Established in Wauchope in 1967, HCCU initially looked after the banking needs of the local dairy industry. Today HCCU is a successful community-based credit union with 14 branches stretching from Maitland in the south to Coffs Harbour in the north.
By necessity, our branches are quite geographically dispersed. Our head office is located in the middle of our branch network, and our furthest branches are a two and a half hour drive away on either side. This vast branch network helps us remain close to the issues that matter in our communities of service, and have garnered customer loyalty.
It is not without its challenges, however.
When dealing with multiple widely scattered branches, keeping staff informed and supported, and maintaining a cohesive company culture can be difficult. It’s also a challenge to provide customers at each branch with ready access to banking specialists – our experts are often on the road, traveling from one location to the next up and down the Pacific Highway. This level of inter-branch travel also raised safety concerns among HCCU management.
About a year ago, I decided to look into video conferencing as an alternative to the constant staff travel, and to reduce difficulties related to inter-branch communication. HCCU had already been using a small point-to-point video conferencing system; unfortunately, it only worked between our head office and the Maitland branch. The outdated technology resulted in poor image quality.
My goal was to create a far-reaching solution to benefit both HCCU staff and our members. This meant a system that would allow multiple contacts to dial in across the branch network, to enable weekly sales meetings, branch management and board meetings and other activities to be handled almost exclusively through video.
We received quotes from a number of suppliers, and chose LifeSize, provided through Newcastle-based Modcoms (a LifeSize partner). The equipment was tested in HCCU’s boardroom in Wauchope, using a Telstra service to link offices in Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle. Using ADSL 2 service for connection, we determined that the technology offered outstanding video images with easy-to-use equipment, providing the broadest range of features at a comparatively low cost.
We are using a high definition system for our head office boardroom, with 14 desktop units deployed across our branches. With three additional video conferencing software licenses, our directors and other remote personnel can use their laptop or desktop computers for video conferences even when working from home or traveling.
It didn’t take long for HCCU staff to embrace this new video conferencing technology. Our staff members find real value in being able to see each other face-to-face, rather than just listening to a voice over a phone call. They like the idea that they can sit in their own offices and still attend meetings.
We’re now using video conferencing for regular weekly meetings by the HCCU mobile sales team. Branch operations managers also use the system for updates with individual branch managers. Better still, board members are making use of the technology for board and committee meetings, which has created more flexibility for these meetings. HCCU directors can dial into board meetings from the comfort of their own homes. We’ve estimated that video conferencing is saving HCCU a minimum of 20 hours per week in travel for weekly sales meeting alone. That’s 20 more hours our team can focus on selling instead of driving. We’ve dramatically achieved our goal of reducing travel.
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HCCU can now access any partner, supplier or customer via HD video conferencing over the Internet. Even our branch managers have begun to contact each other by video conference rather than by phone. It’s enabled us to maintain our close-knit organization even when we’re not physically there.
Now that our staff has gained experience with the equipment, we’re starting to look at ways of using video conferencing to benefit members. Some of our branches are reasonably small. With video conferencing technology, our members don’t need to wait until an appointment is made and our commercial loans manager has made the two-and-a-half hour drive. The same is true of our financial planners. By providing access to our experts over video conference, we can reach more members and deliver faster advice.
Brad Hinton is chief financial officer of HCCU.