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ASB: Making digital money ‘tactile’ and ‘tangible’

ASB: Making digital money ‘tactile’ and ‘tangible’

The Innovation Lab provides a preview of the future of banking, says ASB Bank chief architect James Bergin

Russell Jones and James Bergin beside an NCR-brand touch-enabled ATM prototype – among the first of its type installed in the Southern Hemisphere.
Russell Jones and James Bergin beside an NCR-brand touch-enabled ATM prototype – among the first of its type installed in the Southern Hemisphere.
“We are actively embracing the digital age,” says James Bergin, chief architect, technology and innovation, for the Enterprise Services division at ASB Bank.

“A lot of that is recognising that money is becoming digital. It is not going to become digital, it is digital now,” he continues. “With money being digital, it starts to lose some of its tangibility. Suddenly you cannot touch it as much.”

Bergin states this as he shows CIO New Zealand the features of the Innovation Lab at North Wharf, the bank’s new headquarters at Auckland’s Viaduct.

The Innovation Lab is right at the bank entrance on Jellicoe Street, so that the public can test new technologies – and they are encouraged to do so – for a raft of banking functions.

North Wharf houses the state of the art Innovation Lab – hard to miss as it is right by the entrance of ASB's new head office.
North Wharf houses the state of the art Innovation Lab – hard to miss as it is right by the entrance of ASB's new head office.

Bergin explains to visitors that the Innovation Lab can perform all the regular banking functions available at any ASB Branch. There is a foreign exchange desk, a 24-hour ATM lobby, but it deliberately does not look like a traditional branch.

Notably absent are paper brochures and teller counters. In their place are a range of interactive technologies designed to help them explore new ways of banking.

The area is a test bed for technologies and hardware prototypes developed by ASB including gesture-based, interactive 103-inch plasma screens operated by Microsoft Kinect motion sensors. This allows customers to navigate through digital brochures, real-time rates and videos using gestures and without touching the screen.

There are touch-enabled, wall and table mounted interactive multi-media displays enabling self-service navigation. Bergin says this allows customers to interact with ASB retail specialists as opposed to traditional behind the counter or behind the desk models.

Russell Jones, ASB executive general manager – technology and innovation, uses hand gestures to navigate the interactive screen.
Russell Jones, ASB executive general manager – technology and innovation, uses hand gestures to navigate the interactive screen.

The Innovation Lab also has video-conferencing facilities and a state-of-the-art, NCR-brand touch-enabled ATM prototype. Bergin says this is one of the first of its type installed in the Southern Hemisphere. The prototype will allow the bank to explore how to merge traditionally separate ATM, Internet and teller-based platforms.

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From an architectural point of view, says Bergin, ASB is trying to create an environment that allows people to connect with their money.

He says this is the reason why a lot of the platforms in the innovation lab are around gesture and touch. Voice-based as well as artificial intelligence platforms are next in line for implementation.

Customers will have a big part to play in deciding what the future of banking will look like, says Bergin. “We are not saying we have all the answers,” he says, but the idea of having a laboratory was to allow the bank to “experiment, test and trial balloon” some of the ideas around the future of banking.

“The game has changed and it continues to change,” he says on the nature of banking. “From our point of view, we are more than happy to play the new game and in doing that, we are helping write the rules of the new game.”

Related: ASB’s high tech office breaks workplace traditions

Follow Divina Paredes on Twitter: @divinap

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