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Move toward automated technology increasing need for IT professionals in banking sector

September 16, 2013

The banking sector, like virtually every other industry, is undergoing major changes thanks to the development of new technologies. Such advancement is having a significant impact on the nature and number of job roles, both in eliminating certain functions and creating new possibilities.

Nowhere are these trends more evident than in the banking sector. As most consumers have no doubt noticed, banks are embracing technology in a wide range of areas. As a result, their IT support staff needs are growing.

Technology trends
The most obvious example of technology altering the banking experience for the average customer is the replacement of human tellers with automated ones. Obviously, ATMs have been around for quite a long time—the first of these machines appeared in the 1960s. But it is only in the past few years that ATMs have added the ability to accept cash and check deposits, thereby replicating one of the most commonplace functions of human bank tellers.

Now, ATMs are becoming even more sophisticated. The Boston Globe reported that Bank of America is currently testing interactive ATMs at four Boston-area branches. These machines feature Teller Assist, and offer customers the ability to speak to tellers via video. This means that Bank of America can treat its teller operations much like call centers, as opposed to providing on-site staff for every location. Bank of America has established video teller staffing locations  in New Jersey, Delaware and Florida.

The Boston Globe noted that the program is also being tested in Atlanta and will soon roll out to Charlotte, Houston, Dallas and Jacksonville, Fla.

Ed O'Brien, director of a payments and banking research firm, told the Globe that he expects video tellers to become increasingly popular over the next few years as customers take advantage of more flexible hours, including weekend availability, while still enjoying human expertise to guide their banking experiences.

In a related development, Bank of America also recently announced that it is closing a number of its drive-up teller windows across the United States. This action is being taken not primarily as a means of reducing operating costs, but rather due to a lack of demand for these services. In addition to ATMs, consumers are meeting their banking needs by utilizing mobile banking apps. These tools allow customers not only to check their balances, but also deposit checks and send and receive money transfers.

According to Wyoming Public Media, Bank of America processes approximately 160,000 checks via smartphone app every day. The news source estimated that 13 million customers utilize mobile banking, while 29 million rely on online banking services.

Job losses, job gains
These trends are reducing the number of bank tellers in the workforce as consumers are simply finding it unnecessary to interact with a human for the vast majority of their banking needs.

But accompanying this decrease in the number of human tellers is the heightened need for high-quality IT support professionals. IT workers are necessary for developing, implementing, maintaining and improving the various technological initiatives that banks are undertaking to improve their customer service.

For example, Jody Blatman, a senior vice president for retail banking, told the Boston Globe that Bank of America is constantly working to improve the functionality of its video teller machines, striving to improve volume controls and include additional options such as splitting deposits across multiple accounts.

"It's going to take some time," explained Blatman in the article. 

Similarly, banking applications need consistent support to ensure they remain compatible and secure in the face of regular operating system updates.

This last point, security, is particularly important. Just as the earliest ATM adopters were extremely focused on physically protecting these devices from criminals, so too must today's banks dedicate themselves to thwarting cybercriminals' efforts to commit digital theft.

Furthermore, users of mobile, online and video banking will always need technical support as they encounter glitches, whether self-created or not. Most banks now have online chat support offerings as well as phone lines and email contacts. Such responsiveness will become even more critical as technology assumes a greater role in the average consumer's banking processes.

For these reasons, banks are now in need of more IT support staff than ever before. They need IT professionals with a wide range of specializations and skills in order to meet all of the technological outlined above, as well as the various IT challenges which will inevitably develop in the future.

For banks facing a shortage of IT workers, partnering with an IT staffing and talent agency may be the best course of action. These firms can find the ideal candidates for a given position, helping banks optimize their technological abilities and customer service offerings.

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