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Utah man awarded patent for video-banking system

Utah man awarded patent for ATM-like machine that allows 'teller-conferencing'

SALT LAKE CITY — Banks used to be notorious for so-called bankers hours. It worked for them but not for customers. Now, with a new souped-up bank machine, a Utah man is helping banks stay open day and night.

Gene Pranger was awarded a patent for a video-banking system that brings tellers face-to-face with depositors, even though they could be hundreds of miles apart. It combines the advantages of an ATM, drive-up window, Internet banking and teleconferencing.

"We have the first financial institution, worldwide, that's open 24 hours a day, seven days a week," he said.

Sandy-based uGenius Technology has placed machines in a dozen banks and credit unions east of the Mississippi River. They system is also being used in Canada and Australia. There are none in Utah so far.

Bank customers or credit union members use a unit called a personal teller machine or PTM that directly connects to live tellers to remotely transact virtually any business, including traditional check and check deposits. Once a person requests a teller by pressing an on-screen button, the call is routed to the next available teller whether they are in the same branch, another branch, or in the bank or credit union's video call center.

When the connection is made, a live video image of the teller and audio hookup is streamed to the PTM, and from that point transactions are completed as they would be at a conventional teller window. The video teller can view a customer's ID and discern a signature electronically.

"People know it's a live person on the other end and they have the same conversations that they have with tellers as if they were standing live, face-to-face," Pranger said.

The system can handle 96 percent of all teller transactions, he said.

For banks, the advantage is tellers can be in a call center or even work from home, serving dozens of bank branches remotely. A credit union in New York has found it cost-effective to have a teller on duty, even in the middle of the night.

Bob Michaud, Mid-Hudson Valley Federal Credit Union chief marketing officer, said the video teller provides a way to offer service on a scale never before possible.

"You never have to lock the door with a personal teller," he said. "These are not banker's hours anymore."

Now that he has a patent, Pranger hopes his invention will take off, as banks and credit unions climb out of the recession.