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Driven by the need to better serve customers, be competitive and cut operating costs, bankers are taking the show on the road with portable technology that literally brings the bank to the customer


By MICHELE O'KEEFE Bank Systems + Technology Writer



................... The need for disaster recovery also forms a big part of the market for mobile banking, which places ATMs and other banking services in a customized vehicle for use not only when regular facilities are down but also for special events and in locales lacking a branch. The system can communicate to home base through a jack cable, modem or cellular link.

Matthew Boga, senior partner of Mobile Automated Teller Terminal Systems (M.A.T.T.S.), in Reno, NV, says new technology has replaced cumbersome older equipment. MATTS's portable ATM vans are not only smaller than converted recreational vehicle or cargo van alternatives, but include a generator for use during power outages as well. The ATMs slide inside the vehicle for security purposes, and-may be used without logos to prevent drawing attention to the van. MATTS officials determined that mobile banks have several purposes in addition to disaster recovery: They provide a community service, promote a bank's services and generate fee revenue. And Boga agrees that adding mobility will also help banks meet some regulatory needs.

"I think there's a tendency now to take services to the customer and then to the customer not only in general, but when they need it and where they need it," he says. "And that's what the mobile platform allows. It allows you to relocate services to the customer when they need it and where they need it."

The unit costs $78,000, plus two Diebold 1060 ATMs. MATTS also allows banks to purchase their own ATMs, which the firm will then fit into the mobile branch. Boga says the cost is significantly less than converted cargo vans or RVs, which run as high as $250,000, and ATM sites, which average about $30,000. Bank One Texas, of Dallas, recently purchased the system. While Bank One officials could not comment on the system at press time, Boga says that the institution had previously built its own mobile unit.

"To our surprise, we have found that many smaller institutions are very, very interested in mobile applications," says Boga. "And the reason is that it allows them to have a larger presence in a community. Now they can actually compete on an equal level."

Competition has certainly been a driving force in the spread of technology. While Tadpole's Burr characterizes portability in the banking industry as in its infancy, it is clear that there is a growth spurt on the horizon.

And despite the per-unit cost of some systems-Founders' bank-in-a-briefcase costs $6,800-banks are seeing a good return by substituting laptops with docking stations for regular desktop models and through increased production.

Whalen puts it simply, "We finance it by doing more business."