New Products in Three Hours

ABA Banking Journal, July 1990 | Go to article overview

New Products in Three Hours


here comes a time in the life of a

bank when it realizes it can no longer get by with its branch equipment, no matter how well it has served the bank up till then. Valley National Bank of Des Moines, Iowa, came to that point three years ago.

"We had outlived our teller equipment," recalls Mark D. Hodson, assistant vice-president for information technology at the $448 million-assets bank. Hodson describes this equipment as electromechanical machines that were so old "the bolts were literally starting to fly out of the top. " At the same time, says Hodson, Retail requested that "we put data on the desks of all personal bankers-they wanted administrative terminals. "

However, Hodson notes there were problems with this situation. For one thing, replacing the old electromechanical teller machines with new ones "wouldn't give us more professional and knowledgeable tellers that were able to make referrals and use the products and services features of the system like a personal banker. "

Furthermore, the personal bankers would not benefit from having a plain old computer terminal on their desks. "A mainframe terminal with a cryptic, complex, command-driven system has absolutely no sales in it," says Hodson.

It's a back office inquiry machine. "

Valley National followed the usual route to finding a new system-going to trade conferences and inviting vendors to perform demonstrations. After almost a year of this, the bank signed a contract with Vboss Development Corp. to purchase and install the Vboss branch automation software system. Part of the reason the bank chose Vboss was because it is a subsidiary of a bank holding company-Valley Bancorp. of Appleton, Wis.-thus making the system, in Hodson's words, a product "by bankers for bankers. "

(Despite the similar names, Valley National Bank is not affiliated with Valley Bancorp. The Des Moines bank is a subsidiary of Banks of Iowa Inc.)

The PC-based Vboss software integrates sales, teller transaction processing, and document preparation in a single system linked to a bank's mainframe. The system can operate on a variety of personal computers. Staged installation. The installation of the system began at Valley National's main office in November of 1987; the bank's remaining three branches received the system within the following two months. A total of 75 new workstations were installed.

Rather than just put the system into place as is, the bank decided to tailor it to meet its particular needs. This decision led to the creation of Project ATRIUM (automated teller and retail information and user management), an on-going program that initially eased the introduction of the new branch system into the bank, created the training program for the staff, and later enhanced the system's features and capabilities to meet the bank's needs.

"We were talking about personal bankers who never worked on a computer terminal before, let alone a PC, " says Hodson. "We wanted to help them out, not hurt them. "

The bank decided to install its equipment in stages, beginning with the personal bankers. The terminals were placed on the platform desks without mainframe access. On-screen training allowed the bankers to call up information on rates, products and services, and financial calculations-"Fun stuff for them," adds Hodson, jokingly.

Standing on the sidelines watching this were the tellers, who were eager to get a grasp of the system. The bank also created on-screen training specifically for the tellers, which Hodson believes increased Valley National's level of productivity. Hodson figures the use of computer-based training cut training time from weeks to days, and in some cases hours. …

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