Retail Banking: Security Surveillance’s Role in Branch Transformation

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By Rick Snook

Retail banking has changed so much in the past decade that we even have an official term for it: ‘Branch Transformation’. As banking moves increasingly to digital formats, the role of the bank branch is evolving fast – revising and revamping for today’s needs. Things you’d never see in a branch 10 years ago are becoming more common, like casual meeting spaces, digital hubs and cafés.

As branch transformation and fintech (short for “financial technology”) continues to evolve, so will the needs for security surveillance, cybersecurity, and advanced digital technology. Surveillance systems enhanced with artificial intelligence are now becoming the standard. Adding a global pandemic to the mix of threats fuels our motivation to examine how security technology – specifically, video data analytics and network audio systems – can play a key role in taking banking into the future.


Building a Better, Safer, and Socially-Distanced Experience

Network surveillance cameras can now give us a plethora of data to use to our advantage. Equipped with insights about exactly how and when customers use branches, banks can optimize their branch assets and customer experience. Queue monitoring and occupancy estimating (or “people counting”) are two cost-effective ways to accomplish this.

Nobody likes to wait in line and queue monitoring analytics can provide real time data for how many people are “lined up,” giving an alert and notifying staff when a threshold is hit. It also provides statistics about queue fluctuations over the course of the day, which can help ensure your resources match future visitor traffic and needs.

If your branch is equipped with a network audio system (more on that later), queue monitoring can even help to ensure social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For example, when an event triggers a network camera, it will prompt a speaker to play a pre-defined clip such as: “Please remember to stay six feet apart until the customer in front of you has completed his or her transaction.”

Occupancy estimating provides real-time data on how many people are present in your branch or in a certain area at a certain time. This can help you improve how a space is used, get an indication of the revenue opportunity, plus optimize workforce planning and opening hours. It can also tell you when occupancy exceeds a set threshold, crucial in helping to prevent the spread of COVID-19. For example, occupancy estimating can play an audio message to people outside, so they know to wait until it’s safe to go in. When integrated with a building management system, occupancy estimating can even help to optimize HVAC system usage and reduce energy consumption.

Sounds like the Future – How Audio Analytics can Enhance Retail Banking

Network Audio Systems may not currently be a standard within retail banking, but they can improve a customer experience, which is why retailers have done it for years. Some examples of how network audio could enhance the branch environment are:

  • Background Music – Creates a pleasant environment and can help during times when customers are waiting to be assisted by relieving agitation and allowing them to enjoy their time in-branch, creating a positive overall experience.
  • Announcements – Audio alerts can help mobilize staff to assist visitors when the floor becomes busy. For customers, they can provide a new service offering or other important messages.
  • Zoning – Provides ability to define different audio zones in each location and manage and connect remotely with multiple locations at any time, providing a consistent brand experience.
  • Soundmasking – Background music can be used to increase confidentiality. By having distracting music, it makes conversations more difficult to hear and follow, thus keeping private conversations with customers confidential from those who may be within earshot.
  • Reduce Loitering – a triggered audio message can help to prevent unwanted activity in the ATM vestibule or around the branch. Music playing outside can also deter loitering as well.
  • Enforce Rules – when used with cross line detection analytics, an audio message can be triggered whenever someone crosses a user-defined virtual line. For example, to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, a pre-recorded audio clip can remind customers and employees to use hand sanitizer as they enter the store or washroom and as they’re leaving the building.

Detecting and Deterring Suspicious Activity from the ATM to the Parking Lot

Having just passed its 50th anniversary, the ATM (Automatic Teller Machine) plays a critical role in the customer experience and ATM numbers are actually increasing worldwide. But recent research shows us that customers often feel unsafe when using them. That’s why discreet network cameras in the ATM vestibule are a must, deterring potential assaults on customers and the ATM itself. A great example of network cameras “doing their job” is with a loitering detecting solution in the ATM vestibule, which can notify the system operator whenever too much time is spent in front of the ATM. Zooming in can catch criminal activity such as card skimming and “shoulder surfing,” allowing for immediate, real-time action in the case of an incident and improved investigation, thanks to hi-def video footage.

With a licence plate recognition solution, you can also, in theory, catch criminals before they even have a chance to walk into the branch. This type of analytics application captures a license plate in real-time, compares it to a pre-defined list (such as organized crime rings or vehicles associated with missing persons), and generates an alert. Today’s pan/tilt/zoom cameras with instant laser focus can also catch the license plate of vehicles even when they are moving.

Aggression and gunshot detection are excellent layers of defence for bank branches. Since many safety and security incidents are preceded or initiated with sound, a camera and advanced audio analytic software can “listen” for predefined noises. A system like this provides algorithms that can detect an acoustical pattern and pick up on aggressive voices or sounds, then notifies the operator, who can evaluate the situation by watching live video feeds and take necessary measures.

Biometrics and Facial Recognition – Slowly Gaining Acceptance as the New Normal

Biometrics, for those not familiar with the term, are defined as “body measurements and calculations related to human characteristics… used in computer science as a form of identification and access control.” Facial, fingerprint and voice recognition are all examples of biometrics. In branches, facial recognition is particularly beneficial for accessing high security or restricted areas, identifying organized crime rings, finding a missing person, or protecting a person’s assets through validation.

Because of privacy concerns, facial recognition is currently a controversial topic. While facial recognition with smartphones has gained acceptance, banking and other industries have been slower, limited for public deployment and only used for high security data centers, vaults and other secure areas of their facilities. There are, however, specific technologies that protect customer data while facial recognition is in use, which include things like video redaction; which is the ability to blur others in the video that are not directly involved in the incident.

The pandemic has also certainly increased receptiveness for touch free solutions via facial recognition, as keeping surfaces (particularly doorknobs) constantly clean is challenging. With a network door station, banks can setup up keyless entry into private areas to reduce the spread of germs. When an employee looks into the camera, the solution identifies them from a database of authorized personnel. Once the system authorizes the person, the network solution automatically unlocks the door. Facial recognition can also help with mask or no mask detection, automatically locking doors whenever someone tries to enter a mask mandatory area with no mask.


Cybersecurity – Why OT and IT Must Work Together

As technology evolves, so do the threats. Hackers or “bad actors,” as they are known in the industry, are finding new ways in through your IoT (Internet of Things) devices, which includes network cameras. Because every network device is now a potential breach point, this is why your IT department (who manages the flow of digital information), and OT department (who manages the operation of physical processes, machinery and physical assets), must become a tighter team to create a better defence. One often-overlooked way to accomplish this is through device management software solutions – which can assemble a full real-time inventory of all your network surveillance devices, spelling out exactly where you stand on the cybersecurity front and what steps need to be taken to protect your technology – saving on both time and stress.

Making Today’s Solutions Sustainable for Tomorrow

Short term solutions for the pandemic have long term potential as well. Occupancy estimators today will lead to branch optimization tomorrow. Face mask detection today can be used for robbery detection tomorrow. There is even software being reinvented to capture facial features left uncovered by masks.

The current change in branch style to get more of a relaxed customer experience – such as moving staff from behind a counter to a lounge area – will require a different design in placing cameras and increase demand for smaller cameras that blend into the interior. These cameras will expand to provide not only security and safety but also business intelligence via AI data.

Planning for a safe and profitable branch transformation means anticipating future needs. The only way to accomplish this is to involve all stakeholders and partners in a total discussion, covering the needs of today and tomorrow. There are countless ways that having intelligent “eyes on everything” can prove to be a huge return on investment.

Rick Snook

Rick Snook is the Business Development Manager for Retail and Banking at Axis Communications. In this role he provides support and education and assists with providing comprehensive and sustainable solutions to our large end users while protecting our channel partners. Rick holds a Physical Security Professional (PSP) certification from ASIS International, Loss Prevention Qualified (LPQ) from the Loss Prevention Foundation, CPTED Level 1 as well as an Axis Certified Professional (ACP) designation from Axis Communications.



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