Laurentian Bank lays foundation for next-generation ABMs

Laurentian Bank Wednesday said it would spend $14 million on an IT project to introduce updated equipment and enhanced functionality to its network of automated bank machines.

The Montreal-based firm said it had contracted

IBM Canada’s services in a deal that will see Wincor Nixdorf bank machines installed throughout Quebec and eventually outside the province as the bank continues to expand throughout eastern Canada. About two-thirds of all Laurentian bank machines will be replaced through the project, which is not expected to be fully complete until 2007.

Francois Desjardins, the bank’s vice-president of direct financial services, said Laurentian began examining its options more than two years ago when the company prepared a three-year plan to improve customer service. Bank machines represent about 30 to 34 per cent of all its electronic transactions right now, he said. Its legacy equipment, however — a mix of NCR bank machines and those from other vendors — are based on a protocol that’s more than 20 years old, he said.

“”In the past, you’ve seen the ABMs acting as almost a dumb terminal where you have very limited menus or screens,”” he said, while the Wincor machines will give Laurentian a more sophisticated communications channel to its customers. “”The later generation protocols allows you to present on screen any marketing material you want to put on and have that be dynamic.””

The bank machines might recognize the demographics of users when they enter their personal identification number, for example, and thereby advertise specific services for seniors or the 18- to 34-year-old group.

Lindsay Hunt, business unit executive for self-service at IBM Canada, said the PCs running the bank machine network will use Windows technology, which provides banks with a more flexible platform on which to add feature-rich applications.

“”The customer experience that most of us have with our banks in the ABM has been isolated from everything else we see at the bank,”” he said. “”There’s no obvious connection with the other services we might purchase from the bank.””

Laurentian already offers services like electronic bill presentment and payment that will be accessible via the bank machines, Desjardins added. That means the machines will become more than a place to merely deposit or withdraw money. “”The teller machines will be able to offer more connectivity through links with the existing transactional services of the site,”” he said.

Hunt said the Wincor machines significantly reduce the need for routine maintenance like paper jams, and break-fix service calls are typically cut in half. This was extremely important to Laurentian, said Desjardins, since the legacy machines were becoming costly to run.

“”Every time we wanted to better our offering, it was very expensive to do so,”” Desjardins said.

The first stage of the project, which will take six to nine months, involves upgrading the switching component of the machines which identify whether the user is a customer of the bank or the customer of another financial institution. In 2001, Laurentian outsourced most of its IT infrastructure to CGI Group, which is where the test sites for the bank machines will be set up. The machines will be rolled out gradually on a three-year schedule, Desjardins said.

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