(NEW YORK) — Alex Shalom is a Bank of America teller but earlier this week he joined a couple other tellers who picketed an ATM machine in Manhattan.
The ATM is one of 150 “ATM with Teller Assist” machines that the Charlotte, N.C.-based bank is testing.
The company says the ATM “combines the technology of an ATM with the human touch of a teller” by allowing you to talk via video connection to a teller at a U.S.-based call center during extended hours, including Sundays.
But Shalom, 20, argues that the machines threaten teller jobs in favor of cheaper labor at call centers in Delaware or Jacksonville, Fla.
“Part of my job is building strong relationships and being able to recommend quality products,” Shalom told ABCNews.com. “I don’t think you can do that through a video screen when you’re never going to know the customer and the customer will never know you.”
Tara Burke, a spokeswoman for Bank of America, denies that the ATMs with video tellers are going to eradicate the classic teller.
“We are not planning to replace tellers. We’re not cutting jobs,” Burke said.
She said there is no difference in pay between the tellers but declined to share details of the firm’s wages that it pays.
The new machines are in 61 locations, including Atlanta, Boston, Charlotte, Dallas, Houston, New York and other cities, and the bank has plans to expand the roll-out across the country.
Shalom is presenting a petition to Bank of America, asking the company to halt the roll-out of the machines. He is supported by the Committee for Better Banks, a community labor coalition that aims for a “just and equitable banking industry by improving the working conditions for employees in finance.”
Burke said customer feedback about the machines “has been great.”
“They like the additional non-traditional banking hours. They like the live interaction with the teller,” she said. “Overall feedback from customers has been very good. We are always looking for ways to help our customers bank easier. This provides that and flexibility.”
Greg McBride, senior financial analyst, said the way people bank has changed dramatically over the past several years as an increasing number of transactions are conducted online and through mobile channels, instead of at the local bank branch.
“So you don’t need the same level of staffing in each and every branch, particularly for routine transactions,” he said.
“Some people have gotten used to the self-service model and prefer it. But if they have an issue and have a question, they want somebody to help,” McBride said.
So McBride says the job of the teller is by no means extinct or endangered yet.
“Over time you’re going to see fewer tellers… The way people bank is changing and you’re not going to need the same level of human interaction for routine transactions going forward that preceded in years past,” he said.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Lois M. Collins, Deseret News