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When Washington Trust Co. customers visit the bank's new branch in downtown Providence, R.I., they will not have to stand in line and stare at the back of someone's
head while waiting to meet with a teller.
  The branch will feature Diebold Inc.'s identiCenter, a self-service kiosk-queuing
system, says B. Michael Rauh Jr., Washington Trust executive vice president of sales, service and delivery.
When customers register at the identiCenter, the system presents a menu of
options to discuss with the bank's customerservice  representatives, who act both as
tellers and financial consultants.
  "The identiCenter tells the customer how long he has to wait to before being seen,"
Rauh tells ATM&Debit News.  The system is one of several technological
innovations Diebold, the world's third-largest ATM manufacturer based on 2007 shipments, will install in the branch when it opens.
  The other innovations include an ATM that dispenses only cash and an ATM that
accepts bulk cash and check deposits and a kiosk that allows customers to bank online.
  The branch also will house Diebold's Express Cash Recycler, which dispenses cash and automatically counts and verifies customer deposits.
  "Diebold is using its software and hardware to create a high-tech, high-touch office.
Customers will be able to interact with branch in a high-tech way," says Linda S.
Perconti, Diebold director of delivery channel solutions. It is not yet clear whether this concept will be expanded to other banks or
branches.
  The branch, however, will not be devoid of human contact. Four customer-service representatives, instead of the usual combined eight tellers and customer-service representatives, will work in the branch. The customer- service representatives can cash checks as well as assist customers in filling out loan applications and handling other bank business.
  A Wal-Mart-style host will welcome consumers when they walk into the branch.
"The greeter will explain to customers the technology that is available," Rauh says.
"Diebold is installing the latest and greatest technology in the branch, but we're not doing way with personal service."
  When customers register at the identiCenter, they will select from a menu of
topics to discuss with a customer-service representative. The identiCenter then tells the customer how long he has to wait to see a branch employee.
  While waiting, customers are directed to a lounge with leather chairs and stools.
Customers can read newspapers and magazines
or watch television. The bank also may serve coffee, but the branch is across the
street from two coffee shops so that may not prove necessary.
  The bank is installing two Diebold ATMs in the lounge, one an Opteva 520 cash dispenser and the other an Opteva 720, an advanced-function lobby ATM that accepts
up to 30 envelope-free checks at one time.
  The bank is installing computers with wireless connections. If a customer brings a
laptop computer, he or she can plug into any one of a number of outlets, Rauh says.
When a customer is called to speak with a customer-service
representative, the consumer's name and the issues
up for discussion appear on the representative's screen, he
says.
  Diebold also is installing an Express Cash Recycler between the teller stations. The recycler, which is a vault, eliminates the need for the teller to count cash manually.
In fact, the cash recycler rids the branch of teller drawers. Because of the recycler,
Washington Trust can lower the counter four inches to improve conversation among customer- service representatives and customers, Rauh says. The
bank also is widening the aisle where customers stand in line,
although the automation should eliminate most of the occasions to stand.
  The new branch is scheduled to open in September, he says. Washington Trust is moving an established branch in downtown Providence to the new location, which is closer to the city's financial district. "It is where our tallest building are. It's a busy
area," Rauh says. Because of its location, the new branch is expected to attract office and professional workers who are comfortable with self-service technology, such as banking online and withdrawing cash and depositingchecks into ATMs.
  The bank expects the branch to serve as a
 learning center for customers. "Twenty-five percent of our checking-account customers have an ATM card but don't use it," Rauh says. "We can show them how to use it here. The kiosk also can teach customers to bank online."
  The branch also should help management gauge how technology influences customer behavior. "If the kiosk succeeds in encouraging more customers to bank online, we will deploy kiosks at our other branches," he says. Washington Trust, which is based in Westerly, R.I., has 17 branches.
  "We're looking at kiosks to drive online banking," says Rauh, which could lead to cost
savings. Despite the high-tech equipment, the branch has to meet specific metrics basic to any regular branch without the high-tech equipment. That includes growing deposits, he says.

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