MIDDLETOWN, Ohio-In what marks a first in the credit union industry, MidUSA CU has instituted a high-definition 3D technology interface that places life-size, real-time financial experts, complete with eye contact and theater quality sound, in branch locations.

"We were looking to a solution that would allow us to build and enhance member relations and not simply offload transactions to a technology device," said MidUSA CU's President and CEO, Jim Miles.

The solution to which MidUSA has turned is 3D OmniSuite, a state-of-the-art virtual transaction portal developed by Buffalo Pacific, LLC and Telepresence Technologies, LLC. The selection of MidUSA as the first credit union was due, in part, to Buffalo Pacific CEO David Allen being one of the credit union's approximate 17,000 members.

With six branches and 54 employees, the $190 million credit union was seeking a method in which experienced employees were readily accessible for members. "We wanted to ensure our staff would be available, where, when and how a member's need predicated," said Miles. "However, it's difficult to measure fluctuating demand across multiple offices."

To date, the credit union has deployed three units; two member-facing at two branches and one staff expert unit for the transmission of the interaction, noted Miles, adding that "basic knowledge of the system and the process" is provided to all staff via training sessions. Certain staff, which Miles referred to as "concierge," will be furthered trained to guide member interactions.


How It Works

The technology is not a throwback to the antiquated artificial intelligence of Max Headroom, but rather a portal-the OmniSuite-that supports collaborative interaction. The goal is to build member relationships that further support services such as mortgages, investments and insurance queries.

"We intend to measure usage of the OmniSuite from a new account/new relationship perspective for a quantifiable ROI," said Miles. "We will also measure and monitor member comments and feedback for an anecdotal evaluation."

MidUSA members can access these 3D branches when they need to, for example, consult with a mortgage broker or an investment expert. Miles said the on-site employee connects the member to the OmniSuite via the "telepresence" connection. Within seconds the member is face-to-face with a MidUSA expert and the consultation begins.

"The member feels as though they are having a conversation with someone right across the desk," said Miles. "The transmission occurs over routine Internet connections."

This advanced two-way communication process is made possible by utilizing six registered U.S. patents that provide high-definition 3D imaging and communication with full eye contact, life-size images and theater quality sound, noted Allen. The HDTV video is in 720P at 60 frames per second allowing for "life-like" exchanges, said Miles.

While Buffalo Pacific is in the process of working with other credit unions and CUSOs, MidUSA's foray into this technology has provided a successful platform from which to move forward.

"Being the first credit union in the country to implement the OmniSuite, we are a virtual beta site for all credit unions," said Miles. "The technology, while advanced and leading edge, is very stable and largely fail-proof."


Future Of Interactions

Since launching in October 2012, Miles explained that little was required in way of technology components aside from the HDTV-based hardware and increased bandwidth. Security, however, was a concern that turned out to be easily mitigated.

"With the OmniSuite operating on a separate Internet connection and not tying into the core systems of the credit union, the security risks are minimal," said Miles. "Normal account opening procedures will still be utilized and privacy will be managed for each member interaction, too."

Looking forward, Miles expects that the new technology platform will make employees more efficient allowing for the leveraging of respective talents across multiple locations. "We want members to have the feeling that MidUSA is leading the credit union industry with a unique and timely member benefit."

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