BMO Uses Videoconferencing to Extend Financial Planners' Reach
Crosman, Penny, American Banker
Byline: Penny Crosman
In the rocky plateau of Northern Ontario, where bank branches are few and far between, it's not easy for a financial planner to reach all of his or her customers. Bank of Montreal, $403 billion in assets (based in the city after which it is named), is virtually shortening these geographic distances with the use of videoconferencing.
One financial planner struggled to cover five far-apart branches. "She would get out to those branches once a month and try to set up her calendar to meet all her clients during those short windows of time," says Paul Dilda, head of branch channel for North America (including the U.S. and Canadian banking franchise) at the bank. "Our hypothesis was she could be much more productive if a great deal of the time she was servicing customers with the help of technology."
The bank has installed Cisco Tandberg videoconferencing workstations (essentially a monitor with an embedded camera and a dedicated remote or touch pad) at 50 retail branches. This is just the start a across the U.S. and Canada, the bank has 1,600 branches (700 are in the U.S.) and plans are to gradually expand the rollout.
Rather than self-service video kiosks, which some banks such as Citi are using in branches to provide off-hours help and ease the branch staff workload, Bank of Montreal's approach is assisted service. A branch employee always helps the customer reach the remote specialist at the other end of the videoconferencing setup, for two reasons. "One is just to make sure everything's going fine with the technology," Dilda says. "It's not complicated, but we don't want to make anything the customer's issue. Second is, depending on the nature of the conversation, paperwork may need to go back and forth. Right now we're not able to do that electronically, so the banker that's sitting with the customer can assist with any brochures or paperwork that need to be delivered."
Dilda says the bank spent $5,000 for each base unit, plus installation, training, and servicing costs; support is also provided by the internal audio-visual team. The bank considered higher-end "telepresence" technology that provides larger screens and higher definition video, but opted for units that provide good quality at a price that made it affordable for mass distribution. …