Washington Federal stops counting cash and puts customer engagement as top priority

Washington Federal is not your typical bank. Their focus is on smaller markets where they can tailor their processes based on requirements of the individual locations. With more than 240 branches across the western part of the United States, Washington Federal offers retail and commercial banking, as well as mortgage lending, all while keeping a strong focus as a community-oriented bank with a local, neighborhood feel.

That’s why across their locations, you will find they are implementing hub-and-spoke branches, where the hub refers to a full-service main branch, most like a traditional bank branch but with additional automation, and the spokes are smaller, nearly-automated branches without a traditional teller station or counter.   Some of their branches also feature a greeter stand where employees are meeting with clients the moment they walk in the door, ensuring that they instantly receive whatever assistance they may need. It all depends on what the clients in the area are most interested in seeing at their bank. This desire to meet their clients’ needs is what drove them to consider cash automation in their branches.

We spoke with Tim Vo, Project Manager at Washington Federal, who told us about how cash automation has changed the way their branches operate. They currently have several ARCA CM18 cash recyclers operating at their branches, with plans to add more over the coming months. We asked Tim about some of the benefits the branch has seen since installing the cash recyclers.  At top of mind for him is the knowledge that when a teller is out of balance it can quickly resolved, the reduction of operational overhead, and tellers having less responsibility for the specific dollars and cents, since the recycler is keeping track for them.

But more than anything, the biggest difference he’s noticed has been with the teller’s ability to interact with the client. The tellers no longer have to count cash three separate times, therefore speeding up the process and allowing them to focus on more important things. Washington Federal hopes to transition the traditional teller into more of a personal banker role. In this scenario, they can move away from just cashing checks and dispensing cash and move towards engaging with the clients, connecting with them and ensuring that they understand that the bank’s primary goal is to meet their financial needs.

We know there are many options for cash automation, so we asked Tim what made Washington Federal decide to go with ARCA as their provider.

“I really like the proactive approach ARCA takes to maintenance with the recyclers,” Vo said.  “They don't wait until something breaks and then send a tech out there, but are monitoring them daily to get that little health beat check from them.”

He’s referring to our ARCA Care monitoring system that reports up-to-date information on each machine’s performance to our technical service team. We are able monitor if a machine is having performance issues and can send a tech out right away, rather than waiting for a major issue to arise that could halt business at the branch. The goal of ARCA Care is to increase efficiency and productivity, while at the same time reducing costs.

Washington Federal’s relationship with ARCA began with Cook Security Group of Kent, Washington.  Cook Security Group works closely with ARCA and is available to assist with service to the recycler, ensuring that the banks is given the fastest service possible should the need arise.

Tim tells us that working with both Cook Security and ARCA has been a positive experience and both are invested in the relationship. But what’s most important to him is that by having the CM18 cash recycler in their branches, it’s providing peace of mind for Washington Federal.

“So now with the recycler, I'm getting a better feel for what are our real cash needs are at the location,” Vo said.  “These recyclers are also replacing, not even just the cash drawer at the teller line, but in some instances, the vault. So to know that ARCA is watching those and making sure that, for all intents and purposes, my vault doesn't go out of commission, that's a relief to me.”