Four Virtual Branches Mimic Bank’s Traditional Model

Back in 2008, Israel’s third largest bank UMTB launched UMTB Live, a unique multi-channel customer management model in which retail relationships are managed remotely.

UMTB Live virtual branches offer one-on-one phone support, secure e-mail, live online chat, various forms of instant messaging and extended service hours. Personal bankers are available from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Customers use a combination of online tools to manage their accounts, and communicate with a dedicated personal banker using a range of contemporary communication channels.

In addition their own personal banker, UMTB Live customers have access to a “branch manager” along with a team of professional financial experts such as investment and mortgage advisors.

If you speak Hebrew, go watch the UMTB Live demo.

There are three main pages. 1) Meet Your Personal Banker, presenting faces of actual bankers. 2) Talk to Your Banker, with the range of available communication channels –- video chat, SMS, toll-free phone number, e-mail, fax. 3) The Branch That Goes With You, offering general information.

How it works

Those interested in UMTB Live must be willing to completely forgo traditional branches. Customers who enroll cannot get service at any of the bank’s physical branches, with the exception of using teller and ATM services to deposit cash and checks and make withdrawals.

UMTB Live offers courier service for delivery of customer documents that cannot be sent via e-mail — when genuine signatures are required, checkbooks, credit cards, etc.

The UMTB Live Information Center aggregates all of a customer’s banking information in one place, including all correspondence with their personal banker, online data and messages received from the bank. The user interface is the same secure website that regular UMTB customers see, but with a few enhanced features.

Phone-calls and SMS messages to the UMTB Live toll-free number are diverted directly to the customer’s personal banker. Phone service is available until midnight on weekdays.

UMTB Live offers courier service for delivery of customer documents that cannot be sent via e-mail — when genuine signatures are required, checkbooks, credit cards, etc.

Online chat and SMS services are provided through LivePerson, a global vendor specializing in customer-service instant contact solutions

There should be a custom designed UMTB Live interface for smart phones and tablets like the iPad, but there isn’t, at least not yet.

UMTB Live is free to all bank customers. Existing UMTB retail customers can have their accounts turned into UMTB Live accounts upon request via phone, online or at a physical branch. Due to regulatory issues in Israel, where UMTB is based, new customers must stop by a physical branch to sign an initial set of forms.

As a promotional incentive, participating customers receive a 40% reduction in most checking fees during their first year of membership.

Translating the traditional model into the virtual world

Instead of building a single, gigantic warehouse for all UMTB Live customers, the bank created virtual branches based around a more traditional offline model.

“A virtual branch is sized like a medium-sized UMTB physical branch,” explained Gidi Dorevitch, a Research Manager at Adkit who worked with UMTB.

“There are four virtual branches and not one big contact center — not for any marketing reasons but due to actual operational logic,” said Dorevitch. “Each virtual branch operates as closely as possible to a physical location so branch managers and team leaders can have both flexibility and control with bankers and their customers.”

Each virtual branch has 15 fulltime employees. The service model requires teams of three bankers. Each banker serves a specific set of customers, but also provides backup for the other two.

Dorevitch is enthusiastic about the scalability of the virtual branch model. “Whenever a virtual branch reaches its customer capacity, an additional one can be opened,” he said.

Since launching, UMTB has opened four virtual branches, serving approximately 6,000 customers.

While these are not impressive numbers, the UMTB Live concept has created an
industry buzz among managers and customers of rival banks. The beginning of 2011 saw additional Israeli financial institutions working on customer management models similar to UMTB Live.

While remote relationship management (“Remote RM”) is being implemented by some global banks such as Barclays, Citibank and HSBC with Live Connect, they primarily involve video consultation and “click to chat” services absent a personal banker.

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