‘Express’ PTM in Weathersfield Is First of Many 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.

On Friday, 717 Credit Union cut the ribbon to its new Express Personal Teller Machine, or PTM, located at 3718 Main St. While the credit union already has them installed at many of its branch locations, this is the 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 to the PTM is it allows the credit union to extend its hours to those customers, he noted.

“These machines can be open a lot longer than a traditional branch,” he 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 a number of security features, including a personal identification scanner, which tellers use to verify a customer’s identification, said Brian Boettcher, senior VP of information technology. Anti-skimming technology makes it “very secure and very safe,” Boettcher said.

The 717 Express PTM allows users to either interact with a remote teller or access traditional ATM services.

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

The PTMs are popular with customers and “we’ve seen usage actually increase” since they’ve been implemented, Boettcher said. A big reason is because of how efficient the system makes the experience. PTMs are faster than a typical drive-thru, he said, because 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 then sinking a lot of money into a 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 out the community like we’ve been able to do here.”

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

Installing the PTM aligns with 717’s mission, Soukenik said, because it provides a financial services 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.”

It comes at a good time too, as more customers want contact-free types of services and transactions, he added. “We had these up and running pre-COVID,” he 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.”

Over 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 machine 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.”

During the ribbon-cutting, Soukenik thanked village trustees and state Rep. Gil Blair, D-63 Weathersfield, for their support of the installation.

“We’re very pleased and humbled that you brought this project to life and you made it happen in Weathersfield,” said Weathersfield Township Trustee Richard Harkins. “On behalf of the residents and folks that pass through the community each and every day, we thank you for this commitment.”

The PTM fills a void that’s been present in the community “for numerous years,” Harkins said, “and it will be nice to be able to do banking in our town again.”

Trustee Marvin McBride pledged the community would work “100%” to see that the PTM is successful.

717 president and CEO Gary Soukenik presents $1,000 donations for the Mineral Ridge Fire Association and the McKinley Heights Mutual Benefits Association to Weathersfield Township Fire Department Chief Tom Lambert, Captain Ray Knepper, firefighter Trevor Willoughby, Lt. Chuck Colburn and firefighter Madison Herbert.

The credit union also presented $1,000 donations to the Mineral Ridge Fire Association and the McKinley Heights Mutual Benefits Association, which represents the volunteer fire dept.

“These are two very important organizations in this community,” Soukenik said. “We want to thank them for all they do to protect all the people in this community.”

“We definitely appreciate your partnership, we appreciate the donations,” said Trustee Steven Gerberry. “We look forward to the future of our relationship with 717.”

Pictured at top: Attending Friday’s ribbon-cutting were Fire Chief Tom Lambert; Fred Bobovnyk, Weathersfield fiscal officer; 717 President and CEO Gary Soukenik; 717 board chairman Jack Wilster; and Weathersfield Township Trustees Richard Harkins, Steven Gerberry and Marvin McBride.

Copyright 2020 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.