Magazine article American Banker

Huntington Bancshares Inaugurates Its First Full-Service 'Virtual Branch.'

Magazine article American Banker

Huntington Bancshares Inaugurates Its First Full-Service 'Virtual Branch.'

Article excerpt

Huntington Bancshares has opened its first "virtual branch."

The 24-hour facility, in Huntington's home city of Columbus, Ohio, is the latest in a series of attempts by the superregional company to reconfigure its delivery of retail services.

The virtual branch, the first outlet under the name Huntington Banks Access, is designed to perform almost any retail banking function in a space roughly half the size of a conventional branch. Initially it will be staffed with two employees, but future locations will have only one staff member serving as a "concierge."

The opening of the initial branch follows a pilot begun last March, when the bank installed two fully automated, interactive banking terminals at a branch in Columbus. Using two-way, full-motion video, the so-called Personal Touch machines replicated the functions of live tellers when necessary.

"Customer acceptance has been very good," said Pete Geier, senior vice president of Huntington. "I think we learned a bit about the ergonomics of the machines to make them more acceptable, but generally the customer acceptance and the usage patterns met or exceeded our initial expectations."

The new virtual branch has three of the interactive video devices, which were developed with AT&T Global Information Solutions. The bank employees at the other end of the line work in Huntington Direct, the bank's telephone-oriented banking service.

Also in the virtual branch are two advanced-function ATMs, which allow for check cashing down to the dollar and deposit-taking aided by imaging technology.

Mr. Geier said there were also plans to install imaging capabilities on the Personal Touch units.

Huntington, with $16.5 billion of assets and 351 offices, will benefit by reducing staffing costs and by moving to branches that require only 2,500 square feet or less, said Dave Archibald, senior vice president with the bank. …

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