Why Tellers Still Matter

The role of frontline staff will be enhanced by new technology, not replaced by it.


By Alogent


Consumers today have multiple options for processing transactions. Depending on their financial services provider, they can make deposits from their smartphone, transfer money using text message, get automated alerts when their account integrity is compromised, make deposits at an ATM, manage their finances from an iPad, open accounts on the Internet, and much more. 

New self-service channels are among the top reasons why many of the largest banks in the country have been closing branches. And the expansion of self-service will only continue at a faster pace as the reality of advanced hardware and infrastructure catches up to the promise of new services such as the mobile wallet. 

Has The Teller Become Obsolete? 
The premise behind this question ─ can interaction with a machine replace interaction with a person? ─ is reminiscent of a recent Esurance campaign: “People when you want them.  Technology when you don’t.” It’s true that the expanded access, convenience, and options offered by new self-service banking options are all tangible and unique benefits that replace some of the functions traditionally performed by tellers and call centers.  But the day when smartphones, ATMs, or tablets replace tellers completely is far off into the future. 

Why? Because there are still a multitude of actions that should be performed in the branch and as well as a plethora of members who, like Esurance claims, want to interact with employees who represent the brand. 

While bank tellers have not become obsolete, their role has certainly shifted from transaction-based to relationship-based. 

Teller-Based Transactions Are Declining
A recent study from Financial Management Systems, Inc. cites a 40% decline in teller transactions over the past 20 years.

Image courtesy of FMSI

But despite a fairly consistent decline in the volume (with the exception of Internet-only banks) tellers are still some of the only people at the branch with whom visitors interact frequently. 

Often, the teller is the person who engages new members when they are opening an account.  The teller is also the one tasked with identifying and selling new products like CDs, credit cards, and loans to members.  And when there is a problem and the member walks into the branch to resolve it, they usually speak to the teller first.

The Importance Of Checks At The Teller Line
The most common type of transactions performed at the teller line involves checks (accounting for up to 90% of transactions in some cases, according to a report published by Celent).  This means that financial institutions need to continue improving teller line operations, especially those involving check deposits.  One of the most impactful technologies affecting check deposits is Check 21-enabled teller capture.

The right Check 21 solution can minimize check losses, protect members from fraudulent payments, and reduce operating costs across the credit union’s branch network. 

Over 70% of financial institutions nationwide have implemented some form of check image capture at the branch level, but only about a third of institutions have deployed teller capture.  This trend will shift as executives realize the initial investment in scanners, software, and training is small when compared to the benefits of counterfeit item reduction, the ability to correctly apply extended holds to deposits, the elimination of teller overtime and exception handling, and the capabilities for real-time duplicate detection. 

Learn more about leveraging emerging technology to transform your teller line operations. Watch Bluepoint’s free webinar “Keys to Improving Teller Efficiency” featuring Financial Management Systems, Inc. (FMSI), an industry leader providing management tools to institutions for over 20 years. Click here to watch this webinar on-demand now.



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Sept. 24, 2012


  • I have heard for years that no matter what new delivery channel we put in place, we will never replace people (tellers), we will just have an additional new delivery channel. The role/title of the teller may change but there will always be the human interaction if that is what the member wants.
    J Brown
  • I really enjoyed your article about the importance of tellers. I found it to be point on with respect on how they are used. We have been stressing the transformation of their role in the credit union with the staff, members and Board of Directors. They are in many instances the face of the credit union and still play a vital role in building a trusting relationship with our members.
    Kevin Finneran
  • I feel that our members want/need that personal relationship with their financial institution. It makes them feel secure that their money is safe in hands of people they trust and not a machine.
    Lisa Evans
  • A very nice article in support of the human touch. Some of our members still prefer that personal interaction
  • Actionable!