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<p>OMAHA, Neb. – An Omaha credit union is blending technology with a need for teller security in two new branches. A wave of bank robberies in the Omaha area, including two at his branches, convinced Don Mahan, president of Centris Federal Credit Union, to install the systems, which have tellers communicating with customers by closed circuit television. So he designed two new branches in Omaha suburbs around the remote teller systems, which are designed and sold by Diebold Inc. The branches, which opened after the first of the year, continue to have member service representatives in the lobby, only the tellers – and the cash – are inaccessible to customers. The system looks like a walk-up ATM with a pneumatic tube system. As a member steps up to the kiosk in front of him or her is a color television screen with built-in speaker and microphone. A telephone receiver hangs to one side, if the member desires more privacy. The pneumatic tube system moves cash and paper work back and forth. A Diebold spokesperson said the tellers can be as far as 300 feet away. At Centris, Mahan said, they are really only six feet away, but behind a secure wall. As part of the high-tech approach, the credit union has installed several personal computers for the free use of members, to encourage people to bank online. “You try to talk people into using PC home banking, but it’s difficult if you don’t have something to demonstrate it on,” he said. “We’re getting some interest in it, but the real advantage is the remote teller system.” The branches also have 42-inch plasma television screens that are used to promote the credit unions products. Mahan said the system is well received, though, he conceded, “A few (members) are skeptical, but we also have people out front explaining how to do it.” He said no one walks into the branches without being greeted by a live person. Centris is a 68-year-old institution, formerly Bell Federal Credit Union. It has six brick and mortar branches in Omaha, North Platte and Grand Island and Council Bluffs, Iowa. It has expanded rapidly since it switched from an SEG charter, serving 400 employers groups, to a community charter last year. It has 45,000 members and assets of $285 million. Mahan said he hasn’t decided whether or not to retrofit the credit union’s existing branches with the remote systems. He is concerned that the new technology would be an awkward fit in a lobby designed for traditional teller windows. Centris is among only a handful of credit unions which have installed the remote teller systems since their introduction in the late 1990s, said the Diebold spokesperson. Among the others are Erie Employees Credit Union in Erie, Pa., Johns Hopkins Federal Credit Union in Arlington, Va., North Island Federal Credit Union in San Diego, Ca., OmniAmerican Federal Credit Union in New Orleans, La., Community Federal Credit Union in Dallas and America First Credit Union in Ogden, Utah. Diebold, based in Canton, Ohio, makes and sells a variety of banking equipment, and is probably best known for its automated teller machines. – [email protected]</p>

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