PHOENIX -- Traditional vaults are being eliminated, members can walk around and look over tellers' shoulders and monthly shortages have been as little as 68 cents, total, for a $1.2 billion credit union with 24 branches.
That's the story at Arizona State Credit Union, which is using a software and hardware package from a Chandler company to reconfigure its teller lines and how it handles cash.
The company, CFM Inc., created what it calls cash-flow management software used to power secured cash handlers called recyclers. The teller windows themselves, meanwhile, have been replaced by tower-like pods that allow much more interaction between members and staff, helping build member relations.
The ArcaTech Systems cash recyclers provide the security that "allows us to have that kind of open and friendly atmosphere," said Brian Johnson, vice president of branch operations at 133,000-member Arizona State CU. "We don't have to worry about someone coming behind the teller line and taking cash out of the drawer."
The machines are also rated as safes and can be used as vaults to store more cash on-site, he said.
"It's really a safe way to do things, if you think about it," Johnson said. "You don't have to unload it every night; the money just lies in there, alarmed and safe and secure."
Using the machines also means a branch requires less than half the office space as before, since large vaults are no longer needed, Johnson said.
"The only things in there now are negotiable instruments and some extra cash. No more trays and that sort of thing," he said.
Arizona State CU deployed the system last summer and now has it in 10 of its 24 branches and in its Phoenix training facility. Going forward, the credit union will install them in new branches and consider doing the same as teller lines are updated at existing facilities, Johnson said.
The original idea for the recyclers was to facilitate Saturday hours by eliminating the need to go into safes at all, an idea that quickly grew into the current expanded arrangement.
In addition to member service, teller accuracy also has benefited, Johnson said. A record 68 cents total shortage was recorded in January, he said, and tellers no longer have to spend time at the end of the day searching transactions for money outages.
"That alone has saved us thousand of dollars in overtime, and there are intangibles, too, such as the open environment that the teller pods create," Johnson said. "Besides the increased accuracy of how we handle their accounts, that, too, helps build the trust between us and the members."
Jim Ransco, a principal with CFM, said his company currently has about 50 of the installations at place in 10 credit unions.
The software comes in fat client, thin client and Web-based versions to accommodate different network sizes and levels of infrastructure sophistication and uses a simple system of green and red buttons to move cash in and out of the recycling machines.
Success with the system depends on two factors, Ransco said.
"Those critical components begin with the end user first and foremost. The credit union has to adopt and integrate that open environment that the teller pods create, and then secondly, you need good hardware and software that work together," the CFM principal said.
"We are finding that the recyclers out there on the market are varying less and less, but regardless, without the good people to use them, you really don't have the recipe for success," Ransco said.
So, how has the staff at Arizona State CU responded to the new gear?
"The most satisfying thing to our associates is being able to work directly with members, and now they can do more of that," said Johnson, the vice president of branch operations.
"As for the recyclers, they want more of them, and I would hesitate to take any one away. I'd have to take it from someone's crying hands," Johnson said.