Going to the bank was one of my favorite activities as a kid — waiting eagerly as the teller inside sends a canister filled with candy, and my parents’ bank statements, through the seemingly magical system of tubes, producing a satisfying suction noise as it lands by the car window.
Since then, banking has become remarkably less fun. Not only is there less candy, but it’s challenging to even make it to the bank on time while working 9-to-5. But last week, I was invited to test out some of the latest banking technology in the Quad-Cities, and I must admit, some of my long-lost childhood wonder returned.
Wednesday afternoon, I followed around Amy Orr, with IH Mississippi Valley Credit Union, as she oversaw the roll-out of the credit union’s latest ATMs. They’re actually called ITMs, or Interactive Teller Machines. The Rock Island branch is the first Quad-City location to offer the new ITMs, which have grown in popularity across the country in the past few years.
Basically, the machines are ATMs, but seriously souped up. They don't just allow you to withdraw cash. You can also deposit cash and checks, transfer money between accounts, make loan payments and more.
Anytime I hear about new, advanced technology, scenes from "Black Mirror" tend to flash through my head. Seriously, robots give me the heebie-jeebies. And while I knew this was simply a new kind of ATM, I couldn't help but wonder how inhuman it would feel to use one.
But Rock Island Branch Manager Carlee Thornburg guided me through the process, explaining the first step is to call a teller. And immediately, the smiling face of teller Angelica Madrigal popped on the ITM's screen.
Over the video-conference, which Amy likened to FaceTime, Angelica explained how to make check deposits, transfer money, get back exact change and several other functions. She blacked out the screen in case I had privacy concerns. And, she even offered to explain all of it in Spanish, as she's one of a few bilingual tellers.
I was amazed that the new automated technology was paired with this interactive, human element. As Carlee explained, "you still get that warm, fuzzy feeling from interacting with people."
Amy said several customers have questioned where the tellers are actually located — a fair question, especially for those of us who have suffered through having phone calls transferred to call centers around the world.
And that's where Amy took me to next: the "command center" where the video conferencing tellers set up shop, a short drive away at the Milan branch. There, I saw the other side of Angelica taking calls, complete with photo shoot-style lights illuminating her face as she helped customers.
Amy explained that despite implementing new technology, the change hasn't been about downsizing. IHMVCU has added staff, including more bilingual tellers to serve the Rock Island, and eventually Moline, customer base. In-person tellers are now "loan officers," and have time for more involved work with customers, she said.
I've always wanted an ATM to do what these ITMs do, especially when I need to deposit money after business hours. But I was surprised using the new technology also made me feel a little more connected to the people around me.
Amy said IHMVCU plans to eventually expand the ITMs' operation hours to be 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. And while the credit union is the first to implement the new machines in the Quad-Cities, she expects ITMs to become more common in the coming years.