ME Bank to pilot video-conferencing kiosks

Members Equity Bank continues to shun branches in favour of kiosks that can connect customers straight to its call centre through Cisco telepresence technology.
Written by Spandas Lui, Contributor

In line with its "no retail branch" strategy, Members Equity Bank (ME Bank) is set to pilot video-conferencing kiosks.

The bank is currently undergoing an AU$57 million technology transformation program, and, as part of that, it has deployed mobile bankers who go directly to the workplaces of its customers, who usually are industry superfund and union members.

It has a relatively small customer-base of around 250,000, though it hopes to eventually bump that number up to a million.

ME Bank does have ATMs and mobile bankers deployed across the country, but does not have a retail branch presence like other banks do — and it doesn't want to.

Despite the rise of banking through mobile devices, banks like Westpac still see the value of face-to-face interaction through branches, especially when customers want to take on more complex products.

In lieu of physical face-to-face advice, ME Bank wants to use video-conferencing-enabled kiosks to aid customers without having to burden itself with a physical branch. Using video technology for banking has been heavily advocated by Telstra in its Digital Media Bank report, which was released earlier this year.

The kiosks, which will be combined with an ATM, will use Cisco telepresence technology, and will connect back to ME Bank's Cisco-powered call centre — specifically, the vendor's Unified Communications Manager, according to the bank's Enterprise Architect Jem Richards.

"Customers might see a product they want to know more about, and they can go to a kiosk, click on the screen, get a video connection into our call centre, and actually talk to an expert that can guide them through and make a decision on that product," he said.

Currently, there is one kiosk operating at ME Bank's Melbourne CBD head office. Richards was reticent about where exactly ME is looking to deploy its next kiosk, but said that it will be another Melbourne CBD location.

The plan is to roll out six pilot kiosks across Australia in the next six months.

As part of its technology transformation program, ME Bank signed Cisco, NetApp, and VMware in February for a datacentre overhaul in order to support its customer growth targets.

The bank adopted a FlexPod platform, based on VMware vSphere 5 and Cisco's Unified Computing System, along with the vendor's switches and NetApp's MetroCluster Solution. On that, ME Bank was able to deploy a private cloud.

As a result, ME Bank expects to halve the datacentre space it is renting right now, and eventually be able to move onto a hybrid-cloud model.

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