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Facility Solutions: Cameras in the Branch


April 2014 – Vol: 37 No. 4
by Paul Seibert, CMC

This isn't 'Big Brother.' It's just good business.

April 15, 2014

security cameras
Photo credit: Dollar Photo Club/Smuki

Credit Union Management magazine’s Web-only “Facility Solutions” runs the third Tuesday of the month.

We often talk with credit unions and banks—big and small—about how they need to both invest in technology and develop a culture of people productivity in their branches. In response, we sometimes hear, “OK, we get it,” but then nothing changes. These institutions develop a strong branch concept, train the staff and hire the right manager, but performance is still lackluster. When this occurs, the issue is how staff are being monitored and coached.

Most monitoring is done by recording data in Excel spreadsheets, which in turns drives managers to make such corrective comments as, “You need to do more cross-selling,” or causes upper-level executives to ask branch managers questions about their staff. This remote data and conversational method works for some, but not in every situation. When it doesn’t work, more training or better reward systems are often suggested as solutions.

But what I really recommend is regular, onsite observation of branch staff and in-process correction and training. When I suggest this, many CUs tell me there are just too many branches and too few training staff for this to be possible.

But there is a simple solution existing in every branch: the security camera system. Existing cameras can observe manager and staff performance and member engagement. “Oh no” is the typical response, “That is too ‘Big Brother.’ We cannot spy on our staff. That is not our culture.”

But, is it “Big Brother” when you consider how it will be done and the positive effects it can have?

I had a conversation a few months ago with Lara Puckett and Randy New of Cook Security Group, a provider of security and cash-handling equipment in the Northwest, about the migration credit unions and banks could make to take advantage of their security monitoring systems. We agreed the reluctance to use existing systems and the potential HR backlash is more in the minds of sensitive managers than the reality.

Today, people understand they are under constant observation throughout the day. We should present the use of on-site video monitoring as a positive for the staff and organization. Here are a few of the positives that we touched on in our conversation:

  • ability of executives to mentor individual managers based on videos;
  • provides a video record of what is working and what is not to fine-tune training;
  • cameras can be used to test branch floor plans for efficiency and member engagement by observing how members move through the space, allowing a look at merchandising and messaging and how members engage with staff; and
  • video tellers, interactive messaging, the tech bar and member use can be monitored; enhancements, relocations or removal can follow.


As video teller terminals become more popular, questions arise, such as “How do you connect the culture and motivation of on-site branch staff in a remote facility?” and “How do you hand off a lead from a remote teller to a universal agent?” The security system can monitor activity and cross-functionality in real time to help staff improve and enhance the connecting software.

Cameras have been in branches for more than 50 years. They already record the actions of members and staff. Security reviews branch footage. We are now suggesting the addition of a management component that will enhance performance and rewards.

“Credit unions can use an existing security tool to significantly increase staff monitoring and promotion of the brand at no additional cost,” Puckett told me. New said: “Advances in technology can turn the security system into a centralized monitoring location to advance the branch in other areas as well.”

Most branches already have cameras covering the teller area. As branch models transition from traditional teller lines to universal agents working from pods or to video tellers, the existing array of cameras can be repositioned, and some repurposed, to observe the branch lobby and member activities. Additional requirements may be one or two cameras trained on specific points in the lobby and an additional monitor in the training and marketing departments.

Video monitoring is being transformed into a business tool in other ways as well, according to Puckett. For example, tools like the 3VR Video Intelligence Platform are changing how video is stored, managed, searched and correlated with transactional data and access control to enhance security. She noted that “the system’s facial recognition, object tracking, people counting, dwell time and queuing line analysis can be used to help guide the enterprise.” This is a powerful tool, no doubt, but it gets even more interesting.

New explained that “the 3VR system can be used to determine age and gender at specific locations. This means that ultimately the merchandising in a branch could change to match the age and gender of someone coming into the branch.” No more random cycling of multiple messages on the same screen. And, you don’t lose any of the features designed to catch the bad boys.

The opportunity to enhance the operation of each branch today and perfect the performance of new branch business models, prototypes and brand experiences is at your fingertips using an asset that is already in place: your security system. Using your existing security cameras to observe the good work of your staff is not in essence “Big Brother,” but rather it is the action of a caring coach who wants the best for staff and members.

Paul Seibert, CMC, is VP/financial design at CUES Supplier member EHS Design, Seattle.

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