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Making a Case for a More Automated Account-opening Process

By Maria Bruno-Britz I have always felt that a bit more automation on the account opening side at banks could go a long way. After my ordeal at a midsize, New York-based bank last weekend, I couldn't feel more strongly about this idea.

By Maria Bruno-Britz

I have always felt that a bit more automation on the account opening side at banks could go a long way. After my ordeal at a midsize, New York-based bank last weekend, I couldn't feel more strongly about this idea.I accompanied my parents (both seniors) to the bank to help them open an IRA CD. We thought we'd be there 45 minutes, tops. Instead, it turned into a 2 ¼ hour fiasco.

Keep I mind, I realize an IRA CD is a bit more complicated to open than a traditional one, and my parents made a few errors themselves regarding beneficiary information. But 2 ¼ hours?? Most of the time was spent, understandably, actually inputting the data into the system. The rep asked them for the appropriate information and she typed it in. All this, however, was being done amidst the usual din of a crowded branch on a Saturday morning. I wish I could count the number of transposition errors the rep made (each caught by my eagle-eyed mother). I think we were responsible for killing half a forest with the amount of printouts that were made.

Why didn't things go more smoothly? Both my parents were accountholders at the bank. However, it didn't appear that much of their existing information was automatically input into the fields of the IRA CD form. Maybe it was, but after the first hour of sitting there, you just had to wonder.

So I was thinking, why not give the customers the option of typing their information into the system themselves? Yes, it defeats the purpose of the full-service branch, but wouldn't it be more efficient for all involved? This low-tech solution is employed by the UPS Store I frequent. The keyboard is on a tray that swivels out to face the customer. Once the patron finishes inputting his information, he turns it back to the rep for a once-over and approval. I think this idea could work at a bank. For security reasons, this would all be done under the careful supervision of the branch rep and the customer would be locked out of any other screens. If we had this option available to us last week, I would not have lost half my Saturday. Plus, the rep could have served at least 3 more people in the time she was with us.

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