CBCs/Citicard Banking Centers

Loved the ATMs!!!

I joined Citi in 1978, just a year after we rolled out our CBCs/Citicard Banking Centers across the NY metropolitan area.

We may not have been the first bank to have them, but we were certainly the first major bank to!

And we did it right…all the time!

Working autodialer phones by every machine.

At least 2 ATMs in every CBC (except 1 site, I believe, the Stapleton br #43 in Staten Island).

Many CBCs had many more than 2 ATMS, especially our high-traffic locations in Manhattan, downtown Brooklyn & other sites around the NYBD/New York Banking Division. I believe the “stand-alone CBC” (no branch attached) in Manhattan @ 34th St & 8th Ave had 20 (24?) machines!

We always had a standing desk with supplies (deposit/payment tickets..envelopes…a metal pen chained to the desk with the heaviest & strongest metal known to man, which invariably got stolen on a regular basis) for our customers.

I also remember commissioning a firm to design & produce a special envelope dispenser that we adhered to the wall, within reach of the ATM user so they didn’t have to leave the machine unattended & go the the desk for an envelope.

I also hired a company to produce a heavy-duty autodialer phone to thwart vandalism (they reduced it significantly, but we had Brooklynites who always saw it as a challenge to their “street cred”). These phones were also great in that my CitiPhone reps could tell where the call originated (very useful in case the machines were out of cash or not operating or they hadda provide directions to another Citi location).

The CBCs were always heated/air-conditioned & protected all users from the elements.

At some sites on Long Island, for example (like at the Smithhaven Mall br #628), we had a stand-alone CBC kiosk that in addition to the normal amenities, housed a small office for account opening.

We also had DUCATs/Drive-Up Customer-Activated Terminals at several “suburban-like” branch settings that allowed customers to conduct their transactions without leaving the comfort of their vehicle.

We installed special anti-glare screens (as well as tinted lobby glass) to facilitate use during the day.

In 1985, after a few years of constantly hearing my CitiPhone people getting abused on Mondays by those customer who already hit their business-day cash withdrawal limits (from 7PM ET Friday through midnight Monday) over the weekend, I proposed increasing the cash withdrawal limit from $500/acct/business day to $1000. Today, I believe it’s calendar based, but by card, not account. For CitiGold & Private Bank, I think it’s $2000 and by acct, not card.

I could be mistaken as it’s been awhile!

Anyway…

I hadda fight long & hard to get the approval of the Retail Bank, especially those “crusty veteran” AOMs/Area Operations Managers like Mike Gaffney (B/SI), Bill Mullins (LI), John Healy (Queens), Tom Grant (Upper Manhattan), Norm Merritt (Lower Manhattan) & Tom Gearity (Bronx/Westchester/Rockland) as they were worried about significantly increasing the losses we suffered with fraudulent ATM cash withdrawals.

(BTW, in addition to being 6 of the most-knowledgeable people in the MYB, they were also amongst the very nicest!!!)

While I felt for them, I felt even more strongly about our customers @ the service we provided.

“After all, guys, it is THEIR money! It would be nice if we allowed them better access to more of it!

That’s just part of the cost of doing business!”

It finally passed as I got their approval.

Had done discussions with the Fraud & Operating Loss people as well…they had similar concerns.

I recommended that we simply do away with ALL ATMs &  we could bring those pesky unauthorized ATM cash withdrawal claims down to -0-.

🤔

They relented as well.

Of course, every time we suffered a big loss, someone would invariably shoot me an “evil eye” memo or e-mail, but…

Like all our automated service channels (IVR/Interactive Voice Response, on-line Banking, Bill Payment, etc.), customer satisfaction with our CBCs was incredibly high & significantly better than our manual service channels (tellers, CitiPhone reps, branch personnel, etc.).

One of the biggest downsides to our CBC banking lobbies was the fact that they, indeed, were heated & air-conditioned (No, not simultaneously, silly!) and protected from the elements.

We had a lot of vandalism of the lobbies themselves, the check-writing desks (especially the pens & supplies), the autodialer phones, etc..

There was a problem with the homeless, setting up camp there (especially during the evenings & overnight) & serving as “doormen” (often charging ATM users $1 or more to enter).

We had the infamous Crazy Gluer who like to pour his stuff down our card readers.

And, of course, the muggers, the thieves & all the unsavory characters who turned a simply banking transaction into a battle for your money…and even your life, sometimes.

At our “high-risk, high-incident” CBC sites in B/LI/SI, our Facilities Management people installed security cameras, “hidden” behind smoked glass.

While they were useful in helping to identify suspects with the Police when something bad did occur, we started to experience a noticeable decrease in vandalism & crime.

Apparently, they also served a very good purpose as deterrents, especially since the use of security cameras behind smoked glass became more prevalent in many retail establishments.

When Facilities said that it would be cost-prohibitive to install security cameras in all CBC lobbies (which I never really understood as all our branches already had security & surveillance systems in place), I recommended the next best thing…

Smoked glass WITHOUT the cameras behind them!

Install them in obvious locations in & around the CBC and maybe the troublemakers will think twice before starting anything.

Yes, they worked.

We saw a general decrease in CBC vandalism & crime overall, at both “camera-protected” & “smoked-glass-only” locations.

Years later, to be compliant with the ADA/Americans with Disabilities Act, Citi enhanced our ATMs to be operable by visually-paired users.

They would be able to plug a pair of headphones into the ATM itself & navigate by tapping the screen a number of times instead of choosing options on the touch screen. VCAT capability soon became part of every ATM’s capabilities.

Early on in my career (’78-’80), I would interface regularly with our technology development partners, Technology Transactions, Inc. out of Santa Monica, CA, regarding advancements they were working on.

(You veteran Citibankers remember the Type 1 terminals? They were originally called TTI terminals.)

One of the more amazing & innovative tests involved the user of “fingerprint identification” & “iris detection”, instead of using plastic cards, as a means of customer identification & ATM activation/usage!

A world without the need for plastic…and all the stupid problems & expenses associated with producing, mailing, using, losing, stealing, replacing, misusing, damaging, etc. them!

Just one problem…

With all the hundreds of consumer focus groups they had, bringing people into the lab to test out these capabilities, they were unable to sway customers’ feelings (and assumptions) regarding individual privacy (fingerprints, mostly) & perceived physical dangers (iris detection uses lasers…nobody wanted holes burned through their heads when all they really needed was some cash).

While these consumer concerns were based more in fear than fact & the bank would still support the use of plastic if a customer so desired (in addition, we would also need to when non-Citi customers gained access to our ATM network), Citi could never get over that proverbial hump.

Fingerprints & iris detection were being used then for high-security access at certain government facilities & companies dealing with “confidential matters”, but consumer perception & acceptance of these technologies was simply not positive when it came to financial services.

Perhaps these technologies will be revisited again.

Probably not much different that the firm in Minnesota (?) that imbedded a microchip beneath the skin of the employees for access to Facilities & other purposes.

I know that most people today would say, “Nope, not me! No way! I’d change jobs first!”, but it’s already a pretty-common practice with our pets and I can certainly envision a time when…

As always, thank you so much for listening!

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