‘Express’ PTM in Weathersfield First for 717

MINERAL RIDGE, Ohio – From one free-standing station in a public parking lot, Weathersfield Township residents will be able to do most of their banking, including talking one-on-one with a live teller.

717 Credit Union cut the ribbon Nov. 13 for its new Express Personal Teller Machine, or PTM, at 3718 Main St. in Mineral Ridge. This is the credit union’s first free-standing PTM, said President and CEO Gary Soukenik.

Soukenik referred to it as a “glorified ATM,” because it can perform all the transactions that a regular ATM does while also connecting customers one-on-one with live tellers. Another key benefit is that the PTM allows the credit union to extend its hours to those customers, he said.

“These machines can be open a lot longer than a traditional branch,” Soukenik said. “And for that reason, we started installing these at our branches over a year ago.”

Customers can interact with tellers from 717’s Warren office from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The PTM switches to ATM mode when no tellers are available.

It also has several security features, including a personal identification scanner, which tellers use to verify a customer’s identification, said Brian Boettcher, senior vice president of information technology. Anti-skimming technology makes it “very secure and very safe,” he added.

 “We know immediately if somebody tries it,” he said. “And the system will also automatically shut down.”

The PTMs are popular with customers, Boettcher noted. “We’ve seen usage actually increase” since they’ve been implemented, he said.

The Personal Teller Machine connects customers one-on-one with tellers.

A big reason is efficiency. PTMs are faster than a typical drive-thru, he explained. One teller can handle two to three-times the transactions in the same amount of time it would take with a traditional drive-thru.

At noon on a Friday last summer, Boettcher recalls seeing 37 cars in the drive-thru, “and it took less than 15 minutes to get them all through,” he said.

The PTM is also a value to 717’s membership, he added.

The cost of installing a PTM is about 85% less than the cost of building a new branch, “which is a value to our membership because we’re not sinking a lot of money into bricks-and-mortar. This is more the future. And we can put these up in a lot of different areas,” he said.

Boettcher expects 717 will be installing more free-standing PTMs in the future.

“There’s no question,” he said. “We will be doing more of these. Especially in situations where we can come in and help the community like we’ve been able to do here.”

Weathersfield Township has been without a bank branch since a Farmers National Bank branch left the area in 2016. In May, the township approved a lease for the PTM at a rate of $1 annually.

Installing the PTM aligns with 717’s mission, Soukenik said, because it provides an option for an area that doesn’t have any financial institutions readily accessible to residents.

“Our mission is to serve underserved people and underserved communities,” Soukenik said. “We’re going to fill that void.”

The PTM comes at a good time too, as more customers want contact-free types of services and transactions.

“We had these up and running pre-COVID,” the CEO said. “They have to touch a few keys now and then, but we try to keep the machines cleaned frequently. It’s a lot less touching going on here than there would be in a branch transaction.”

Through the years, 717 has worked to be a leader in implementing technology for its customers, Soukenik said. In 1978, the credit union installed the first ATM in the area, and is now the first to be implementing PTM technology, he said.

“Digital is No. 1 for us. We realize the importance, the convenience, especially for the younger members and potential members,” he said.

“We think this type of technology and some of the other digital technology … are very important for our future.”

Pictured: Gary Soukenik, president and CEO of 717 Credit Union, says the machines fill a void in underserved communities.