Fidelity cashes in, wins awards

July 17, 2002

(Editor's note: In March, the inaugural Interactive Kiosk Excellence Awards were handed out at the Rosen Center in Orlando, Fla. The awards, sponsored by KioskCom, honored kiosk excellence in six different categories, including software, enclosure designs, and applications. This is the fifth in six profiles covering the winners in each category.)

Rachelle Robin and Emily Freeman both work for Boston-based Fidelity Investments as directors in the investor center technology group. Both had entries in this year's inaugural Interactive Kiosk Excellence Awards in the same category.

But sitting at the awards ceremony in March at the Rosen Center in Orlando, Fla., Freeman graciously told Robin that she hoped her colleague and rival for the evening would take home first place.

"She (Freeman) was so great cause she knew that I wanted to win so badly," Robin said.

Robin's Automated Deposit Machine project did win first place for Best Financial Services Kiosk. Freeman came in second with Fidelity's Trade and Discover web kiosks, sweeping the top two spots in the category.

For Robin, the win was gratifying.

"There's a lot of enthusiasm around this program," she said. "We are the only ones in the financial industry to have this. So I think that that's probably another reason that we won."

Fidelity's ADM allows customers to enter any company branch and deposit checks directly into accounts already established with the investment company. Customers that establish new brokerage accounts can also use the machine immediately.

Brian Pilla, Northeast region sales director for NCR Corp., Fidelity's partner in the ADM project, was not surprised by the recognition.

"With me being a Fidelity client, they've always been a very innovative technology company and always have kept on the leading edge of technology," Pilla said. "This is just another example of Fidelity utilizing best in class technology to differentiate itself from its competitors."

Think innovation

The idea for ADM was developed in the late 1990's. Fidelity wanted to utilize the latest technological advancements to release its branch representatives from performing lower-level transactions, such as processing check deposits, and focus on more important issues.

"The representatives are freed up to do other things such as assist with or facilitate sales opportunities and, secondly, work with customers on more in-depth service issues," Robin said. "It's just much more efficient and much more professional and much more accurate."

Fidelity Investments' Automated Deposit Machine clearly displays the steps customers must take in order to deposit their checks.

Robin said it generally takes a branch representative two minutes to process each check for a customer. Representatives can now use that time to work with customers with more complex needs.

When customers step up to the machine, they activate a weight-sensitive security device that launches the kiosk program. A touchscreen takes customers through the deposit process. The check is then allocated into the customer's various investment accounts. At the end of the transaction, a receipt with a scanned image of the check is printed for the customer.

A speedy ramp-up

Pilla said the project was the culmination of front-end consulting, understanding the company's needs and the environment of the kiosk, and then utilizing best-in-breed technologies from NCR to create a unique solution catered to Fidelity's specific needs.

NCR's APTRA software platform, based on Windows NT, is used to power transactions. Such an application is why Fidelity chose NCR to help launch the project.

"NCR was the first to have something that was going to be web enabled," Robin said. "We had numerous meetings where they'd fly into Boston and we'd all just get in a room and have all day meetings just to hammer out a lot of the business rules, how everything was going to work. It really was a huge, huge process."

The first unit was deployed to the Paramus, N.J., Fidelity branch in September of 1999. Now, there are 103 kiosks in Fidelity's branches nationwide. In 2001, those units processed 542,000 check deposits.

"The whole model was based on 20 percent usage," Robin said. "Last year we hit 30 percent as our average. This year we're striving towards 40 percent."

Expansion plans

Making any part of the customer service process more streamlined is important to Fidelity, which had total customer assets of $1.475 trillion as of March 31. In order to get Fidelity's customers comfortable with the ADM instead of a branch representative, Robin said the company uses a positive marketing approach in addition to an aggressive training process for branch personnel.

If you're willing to put the time up front, you can invest it with the customer and do a one-on-one interaction with them, Robin said. "That's where we really found that we were going to be successful," she added.

Pilla said Fidelity's ability to attract customers to the ADM was unique.

"It has exceeded all of their objectives from a financial perspective and a customer utilization perspective which, from an NCR side, we deem this project -- current, past, and ongoing -- a great success for both parties," he said.

Robin said the next step is to take the ADM outside the branch into independent locations to give customers an even greater opportunity to make deposits.

"I look at this as everybody wins," she said. In a way, that is the approach Fidelity is taking to kiosks, even if Emily Freeman took home runner-up honors from Orlando.


Topics: Successful Kiosk Projects


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