First Arkansas Bank & Trust of Jacksonville opened its first Conway branch last week, and the branch will be home to half the QŪB machines the bank has deployed to offer customers more convenience along with the personal touch that tellers provide.
The QŪB machines (pronounced “cube”) look like ATMs but have software that lets tellers in a remote location control transactions and talk to customers through a live video feed.
Customers can use a QŪB to do almost anything they’d normally need to walk into a bank branch or go to a drive-through teller window to do — the most obvious being cashing a check. But the machines can’t print a money order or cashier’s check.
In addition, unlike an ATM, the QŪB can be directed by a teller to give exact change and to give change in whatever form the customer requests.
“We’re offering seven-day-a-week banking. That’s taking what you traditionally knew of as bankers’ hours, you’re wadding it up and throwing it in the trash can,” said Roger Sundermeier Jr., FAB&T’s senior vice president and chief branding officer. “There’s no such thing as bankers’ hours anymore because it’s based on the convenience of the consumer. … We need to be available for them. We’ve turned this back to a customer-focused, customer-centric business proposition.”
The QŪB hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
For FAB&T, installing three of the machines at the Conway branch was a no-brainer.
Mark Wilson, senior vice president and COO, said the physical layout at the Conway branch meant the bank would have had to double staff had it not replaced two drive-through lanes with QŪBs.
FAB&T bought the 3,448-SF former Metropolitan National Bank of Little Rock branch at 804 Hogan Lane for $1.5 million in September from Simmons Bank of Pine Bluff.
In addition, machines were deployed at two Cabot branches about three months ago. The branch at 121 Bill Foster Memorial Hwy. has one, and the branch at 105 S. Rockwood Road has two.
Four full-time and three part-time employees trained for over a month to operate the machines from the bank’s existing call center in Jacksonville. The employees can operate any machine at any location.
“This makes what we do incredibly efficient because we are able to serve three locations now, and someday we can service all of our footprint, from one area, with four, six, eight, maximum 12 people,” Sundermeier said.
The QŪBs are also efficient because tellers don’t have to fill out paperwork and customers don’t have to use deposit slips. Each transaction is videotaped, with the video showing both the customer and employee, and the machines produce digital files that are sent to the bank’s back office in lieu of handwritten forms.
The machines won’t take away from the personal interaction FAB&T customers and employees enjoy, Sundermeier said.
Wilson said customers will see the same employees every time they use the QŪBs. “It would be the same as walking up to the teller line and seeing Barbara, who just knows you. ‘Hey, Mr. Jones.’ You don’t even need to stick your card in. They know what you’re doing. They know your dog’s name. The only thing we can’t do is send a dog bone through the machine,” he said.
Customers from all demographics have embraced the new technology, the bank said.
Jared Dills, vice president and director of retail service, said small-business owners in particular have liked them. They appreciate the QŪBs because they don’t have to send someone to the bank while their shops are open and staff is needed, he said. With the extended hours, they can send someone at a more convenient time.
In addition, when customers use a QŪB to deposit or cash a check, an image of that check is printed on the back of the receipt, a feature that small businesses like, Dills said.
Another advantage is that funds are available right away, not sitting in a drop-off box or inside an ATM that accepts checks and waiting to be processed by bank personnel when the branch opens.
Sundermeier said that educating customers has been a big part of encouraging the machines's use. Under a “concierge-type” program, FAB&T branch personnel are going out to the machines and walking customers through transactions when needed.
Wilson said it helps that the machines are user-friendly and that remote employees can easily explain what the customers must do. The employees can light up certain parts of the machines to direct customers to where their cards go, for example.
“If you just roll it out and hope [customers] adopt it and figure it out on their own, in the court of public opinion, we’re going to fail every time,” Sundermeier added. “So we’ve done a pretty decent job, an above average job, of educating the consumer on a consistent basis and walking them through it and adding that personal level of service.”