Unlocking Business with Banks

When one thinks of a financial institution, security goes hand-in-hand with the money, tellers and lines. The resulting expectations contribute to the steep challenge dealers and integrators face in providing and servicing electronic security for banks, credit unions and other places that deal with the exchange of money.

Besides the system in their home, the most prolific image of electronic security for the general public is that of the bank security system.

People expect the security at the place they bank to be top-notch. In turn, those who work in a financial institution don’t want to feel like they’re just a “Give me all your money” note away from a traumatizing experience with a thief. Those who run banks want to sleep soundly, knowing they have protected their customers, their employees and stacks of greenbacks.

With that, the burden to provide excellence in installation and service is greater for financial institutions than it may be for most other customers.

“People who have a tremendous amount of cash are sensitive to reliability,” says David Charles, president of Englewood, Colo.-based integrator Red Hawk Industries.

An installer deciding to enter the financial market faces a wall created by competitors that have a multiple-year head start, locking up relationships with clients and having the reputation to win more. Still, there’s room for a newcomer if they have a good knowledge of just what a bank is looking for in a system as well as the standards and regulations specific to the market.

Finding financial institutions as clients is usually more a case of them finding you. The higher the quality and quantity of service are, the more bankers dealers and integrators will find at their call, eager to make a deposit on their protection. “You need experience and a large customer base,” says Andrew Minnikin, president of manufacturer Pacom Systems. “Once you prove yourself in the financial market, confidence breeds confidence.”

Banks Have Good Reason to Be Picky About Integrators
The market of selling security systems is occupied by companies that have decades of building experience and relationships with clients. The openings are few for new players. Just as a bank won’t let just anyone come in and handle the money behind the teller window, financial institutions are going to be cautious about who is going to handle their security.

“They have higher security and the assets are portable — the money is moving all over the place,” says Tom Mechler, a product marketing manager who specializes in financial institutions for manufacturer Bosch Security Systems. “You need to understand their business and understand that they’re different from your other customers.”

One of the largest differences lies in the time of day they’re at risk.

Most commercial clients don’t worry about dealing with the “bad guys” during the day. Their biggest fear comes from what happens after the sun has set, the employees have left and the doors are locked.

Bank robberies, on the other hand, are almost exclusively daytime occurrences. Why should a thief go through the elaborate perimeter and internal measures that go up after a bank is closed when they can casually walk in with the rest of the customers during the day?

“It’s difficult to break into a bank at night, but during business hours, there is a considerable amount of cash that is easily accessible,” Mechler says.

With bank robbers making their living in the light of day, they’re becoming more brazen in their crimes and their numbers are growing. While the FBI reports that overall, robberies last year reached their lowest level in more than 40 years, bank robberies were up 14.6 percent.

All the more reason why financial institutions are getting extra cautious when it comes to deciding who will install and service their security systems. More often than not, they will opt for a dealer or integrator they already know and trust, or installers their contemporaries rely upon.

Paul Gvazdauskas, the deputy security director for Providence, R.I.-based Citizens Bank, says when he’s looking for an integrator, he relies somewhat on word of mouth. Some of that can be from organizations like ASIS Int’l and publications like Security Sales & Integration, but he says “a lot of it” comes from his peers.

“If I call three of my peers and find out company xyz performed the work and they’re not satisfied, I’ll have an issue with considering that integrator,” Gvazdauskas says. “If it’s the opposite, I’m likely to call them in.” Opportunities Aren’t Knocking Down Any Doors
During this holiday season, shoppers who are late for clearance sales have mostly bare shelves and few opportunities left to get that present they were promising their child. No chance to put “Know Your Name Elmo” under the tree. In the same sense, the train has already gone through for financial institution customers. Because banks were one of the earliest adopters of security systems and are now among the earliest adopters of new technologies, they’re more likely to already work with a dealer or integrator.

“It’s very difficult to find customers because major institutions have found their clients at this point and it’s tough to unseat that,” says Joe Liguori, principal of integrator Access Control Technologies Inc. of Clifton, N.J.. “It’s tough to come from the outside in to convince a bank it needs to change out a 500-reader system.”

Deposit More Time Into Knowing Your Customer
An installer entering the market needs to know going in that a “one-size-fits-all” approach is impossible in the financial institutions market.

Gone are the days when all banking is done with a teller and a customer. Some bankers call a supermarket home. Sometimes, the banker is replaced completely by a lone ATM in a parking lot. Then there are the differences in the institutions themselves — credit unions, for example, have different security needs than a bank.

“If you look at a financial institution, you’ve got a number of different opportunities and facilities you need to protect, and they’re all different,” says Richard Baggot, Diebold’s vice president of the electronic security and currency systems group. The Canton, Ohio-based company is known both for its extensive experience integrating bank security systems and for manufacturing many of the ATMs and other transaction systems banks use.

Baggot says there are four main types of facilities that financial institutions use and different ways of providing security for each (see sidebar on page 68 of December issue). “When asking how to protect financial institutions, the first thing you need to ask is which of those four you’re protecting,” Baggot says.

Get past the different types of facilities and one has to deal with the different way each financial institution does business. Financial institutions aren’t just banks. They’re also credit unions, stockbrokers, insurance offices, check-cashing centers and any other facility devoted solely to the movement and exchange of money.

Check Into Regulations, Demands for Market
Dealers and integrators who feel they know all the standards and regulations front and back will have some more reading to do if they enter the financial institution market. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC), known for guaranteeing the deposits of bank customers, also issues standards and guidelines for the security of institutions.

UL also has standards specific to financial institutions. Of note are UL 365 — Police Station Connected Burglar Alarm Uni
ts and Systems, and UL 681 — Installation and Classification of Burglar and Holdup Alarm Systems.

Beyond standards and regulations, financial institutions also have demands that sometimes go beyond what some installers are accustomed to.

Liguori says some of his bank clients want 60 to 90 days of recording, and provisions that if one recorder goes out, another can immediately take its place. “You can’t tell a bank you need to repair the recorder and bring it back,” Liguori says.

For that reason, financial institutions were among the first to welcome DVRs into their video surveillance systems, and are now welcoming with open arms network video recorders (NVRs).

“You have to prove that you’re an expert in the field of communications as well as security,” says Pacom’s Minnikin. “We got our start when we were one of the first to offer IP links to cameras at banks.”

Working with Charleston, S.C., integrator I-Sys Corp., Pacom recently replaced U.S. Bank’s nationwide access control system with one that allowed the use of a single access card through all facilities.

Service Failures Could Be Costly for Installers

By virtue of having a continuous influx of funds and growth under merger mania, financial institutions can sometimes have plenty of funding at their disposal for a security system. “You’re dealing with a bank,” says Red Hawk’s Charles. “You’re not dealing with somebody with a credit problem.”

That doesn’t mean a bank’s security director will install a system just based on what they can get if they throw bags of money an integrator’s way. They’re still looking for the best value for that money. To the surprise of some, it is the larger institutions that may look for the lowest cost for a system.

“Large banks are much more price sensitive,” Charles says. “It’s the law of numbers. When you have a bank and someone says you need a first-aid kit for employees at $35 each … if you’re a small bank with a few branches, you’ll say ‘sure.’ But if you’re talking about a bank with hundreds of locations, they’re not making a $35 decision, but a $35,000-plus decision.”

When it comes to security systems installers, the word worth more than all the gold at Fort Knox in the eyes of financial institutions is “service.” With a demand for multimonth recordings, constant operation and system infallibility, banks worry less about the cost of the initial installation than they do about the cost if the system fails.

“Banks want to know you’ll be out there to perform the service as promised,” says Charles. “Quality of service is the big differentiation. It has a great impact on how you retain a customer.”

Forget about service with a smile. Providing quality service means smiles from your financial institution client and more business down the road.

“I think they’re probably happy and they sleep well at night if they know they’ve selected the right partners,” says Diebold’s Baggot. “They need to know that they have on board the right suppliers.”

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