Virtual Banking Links Consumers to Specialists at Other Branches

An interactive video-conferencing center is allowing complicated transactions at Compass Bank branches by connecting customers with bank officers in other cities. Ed Mayberry reports.

It's a high-tech solution that connects customers with specialists at other branches — even in other cities — who can help with things like investments and mortgages.  It's been tested in a pilot project here in Houston, as Alex Carriles explains.

"It centralizes the resources and brings them no demand to the specific branches."

Ed: "Where are they physically located?"

"Our mortgage officers, one is located in Birmingham, Alabama, another one is in the Galleria, another one is in Cypress, Texas."

Each station consists of a printer/scanner and a touch-screen for conferencing with the banking specialist.  Carriles connects a conference with a mortgage specialist.  It's with Tom Lamberth in Birmingham, Alabama.

"Our first tool that I have here is called a sketch pad.  A great tool that we use as well is the document tool.  I can very quickly send them a copy of the good faith estimate.  I assume, can y'all see that document on the screen, there?"

Everyone: "Yes."  

Virtual banking may be over the Internet, but the customer is still face-to-face with the mortgage officer, and is watching the process, including the documentation both are seeing on the computers.

"On your end, you can scroll up and down the page to review the figures.  You can zoom in and out.  And let's say, 'well, let me print a copy for you to take home.'  And you should be getting that document any second now."

Jeff Manley: "Yes."

"And they can sign that document and send it right back to me." 

Virtual banking is also possible with investments, as Jeff Manley with Compass explains.

"Just like Thomas' set-up there, it's his regular office, but yet at the periodic points of the day, someone will ping in and want a question on investments, and he can just slid his chair over and respond to that question."

Ed: "As with this fellow in Birmingham, it's kind of creeping into their job a little, so it's maybe a transition period."

"It's new.  It's like Alex talked about earlier, technology in the banking industry is something new to us in this regard.  But we have the benefit of our chairman at BBVA in Spain has a technology background.  So he's fascinated with this technology, so we're leading edge in some of this stuff."   

David Davis with Compass says virtual banking is being received well.

"So with the Virtual Banker, they can talk to a true specialist that can answer all of their questions.  And I've been real pleased at the customers' reaction.  I was concerned, but we have found that they have been very receptive to this technology, and they like the fact that somebody is immediately available to help them with their questions."

BBVA Compass operates 748 branches in Texas and six other states.

Bio photo of Ed Mayberry

Ed Mayberry

Local Anchor, All Things Considered

Ed Mayberry has worked in radio since 1971, with many of those years spent on the rock 'n' roll disc jockey side of the business...