Banking on state-of-the-art functionality, United Community Bank chooses a Nortel converged network solution as its standard
telecom platform across three states.
“With Nortel and TDS, we have found networking partners who allow us to provide the level of service our bank customers expect. We are able to give our family of banks flexibility while enjoying the benefits of centralized network management and realizing significant network cost savings.”
— Larry Des Pres, Vice President of Technology, United Community Banks, Inc.
“The Bank That Service Built” is a motto in action for United Community Banks, Inc. With 24 community banks and 85 banking offices in Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee, United Community Bank is a $5.5 billion multi-bank holding company that says the secret to good service is treating every customer exactly as bank staff, themselves, would want to be treated. Any customer who calls a United Community Bank, for example, speaks to a person. It’s a distinction that’s nearly extinct in today’s banking world. And it’s working. United Community Bank has a customer satisfaction rating over 90 percent and banking offices in 11 of the fastest-growing counties in the United States.
Growth at United Community Bank continues to include mergers and acquisitions. With each new bank has come a hodgepodge of voice and data network equipment. “Telecom products have been all over the board with many different vendors’ systems,” said Larry Des Pres, Vice President of Technology. “Some locations didn’t even have voice mail. We wanted to
deploy a standard solution across our service area.” Des Pres continued, “A single platform will help us deliver consistently superior service, reduce network costs, allow us to monitor and manage the network remotely and allow users moving from site to site to function effectively.” The company also wanted to improve delivery of telebanking. Customers dial into an 800-number at the company’s headquarters location in Blairsville, Georgia, for balance inquiries, to transfer money and to handle other transactions. Toll charges were steep, with some of United’s banks spending as much as $3,000 per month to offer telebanking. Additional toll charges added up as bank staff communicated with one another via long-distance.
The Nortel Business Communications Manager offers the benefits of a unified network platform while assuring flexibility. United Community Bank contacted Nortel channel partner TDS Telecom in August 2004. TDS and Nortel demonstrated expertise in delivering basic telephony features and in deploying converged voice and data networks that can meet enterprise demands for years to come. The Nortel Business Communications Manager 400 (BCM) offers a full complement of voice features, facilitates voice over IP calls and makes possible IP networking between locations for lower operating costs, simplified network management and a reduced overall cost of ownership. Des Pres said the Nortel solution stands out from the rest allowing flexibility. “Call routing and how each local bank answers its phones are up to the respective bank’s CEO,” he explained. “When customers call, we will speak to them. Our bank in the Brunswick-Savannah market wanted centralized call management, and we delivered it. Other banks may prefer that customers dial directly into various bank personnel, and we also deliver that feature
The Nortel BCM systems are currently serving some 70 percent of the company’s locations, which include the 85 banking sites, plus 5 loan processing offices and 80 automated teller machine (ATM) sites. All of the company’s North Carolina sites will be converted to BCM by the end of 2005. Other locations will be converted as systems in acquired buildings are fully depreciated and standardized on the BCM platform. Ultimately, all bank employees will enjoy four-digit dialing across the network.
Simplified network infrastructure — The converged solution reduces cost by connecting users over the local area network and seamlessly extending telephone features to multiple sites and some 1600 users. Remote maintenance and backups streamline network management. Extensive telephony features — Offering the industry’s largest portfolio of telephony features, Nortel’s BCM lets United Community Bank deliver prompt, professional customer service. Employees enjoy added convenience and improved productivity through features that reduce phone tag and frustration. United celebrates its +90 percent customer satisfaction level and constantly strives to be the market leader. Offering a robust and reliable telephony channel is central to United’s strategy, and the BCM fits perfectly into this strategy.
Powerful and cost-efficient IP Telephony — The new network simplifies adds, moves and changes and eliminates call charges on site-to-site calls. United’s local banks previously spending $3,000 per month to offer telebanking now spend absolutely nothing. DesPres said return on investment with BCM is typically within 11 to 14 months for each of the banks deploying it. Selection of the BCM 400 even allows United to continue using its older TDM telephones, allowing migration to newer IP sets on its own timeline, saving valuable capital expense.
As Nortel and TDS Telecom extend the converged network across three states, United Community Bank will have an expanding array of features and functionality for delivering superior customer service. The company is considering using Nortel IP SoftPhones to bring anywhere access to network capabilities and adding mobility solutions that BCM makes possible. Additionally, United may deploy the Nortel Multimedia Communication Server 5100 for a full range of video and audio conferencing to reduce travel expenses and, more importantly, allow remote product experts or specialty licensed representatives to assist branch customers whenever needed. “With a brand built on service,” explained Des Pres, “having a network solution that lets us migrate to IP at our own pace while providing better service today is the best of both worlds.”