While it's a financial institution's duty to design and maintain its automated teller machine network in ways that minimize chances for violent robberies, security officers also need to make sure their institution is doing all it can to educate its customers on how they can keep themselves safe.
"Banks should reach out to their customers -- We at Key Bank did it a lot," said Thomas Lekan, who served as head of security for the Cleveland-based Key Corp. from 1992 to 2006. He is now a senior vice president at Atlantis Security Management Services in Atlanta.
Key's first line of defense was providing brochures on teller machine safety tips to customers visiting its branches and periodically it provides informational inserts in its monthly account statements to customers, Lekan said.
Lekan and his team at Key have also gone to senior-citizen centers, civic and social clubs, community centers and area nonprofits to give talks on safety -- not only about how and when to use an ATM, but also about how to minimize fraud and identity theft.
For ATM safety, Lekan said his team would recommend that customers try to use teller machines during the day, but if they had to go at night, they should pick a branch or a machine inside a grocery store or other facility that has a decent amount of traffic. When approaching the machines, customers should check to see that no light bulbs that have burned out, and look for anyone watching or loitering around the area, or occupied cars parked or waiting nearby the with the motor running.
Lekan and his team would also conduct joint seminars at Key branches with either bankers or investment officers to talk about safety.
"We'd have luncheons with the seminars and quite a few people would come," he said. "Customers told us they really enjoyed learning about all of the security tips we would give them."
Lekan also shared his practices with security officers of other banks in networking groups and at bank security conferences.
Doug Johnson, vice president for risk management policy at the American Bankers Association, said that best practices for increasing customer awareness of their own safety are listed in the trade group's "robbery tool kit" offered to its members.
"Banks can have customer events in their branches, Kiwanis clubs, women's clubs or at churches," Johnson said. "Banks tell me they get just as much attendance at security seminars as they do for investment seminars. Customers are interested in what they can do to protect themselves and also what the bank is doing to protect them."
Cary Whaley, vice president of payments and technology policy for the Independent Community Bankers of America, said institutions should find ways to minimize the risks to employees in replenishing cash at ATMs, and whenever possible, use third-party armored carriers.
Overall, institutions must be vigilant in maintaining their teller machine networks because they are one of the most exposed channels, Whaley said.
"My one word to any bank risk manager: ATMs are out there for everyone to see, and so your ability to comply with regulations can be evaluated 24/7 by anyone," he said. "The more frequent a bank inspects their ATM locations, the better off they are being protected against any type of physical risk or risk of litigation."
October 15, 2011
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