Profile: Landmark Bank's Vision for Video Conferencing

Last June, Landmark Bank CEO Kevin Gibbens sat down with his CIO Brenda Emerson, and gave her an assignment: Get a new video conferencing system. Oh, and have it up and running in 60 days.

(Note: this article by Mark Everett Hall will appear in Avaya’s Innovations magazine later this month. Landmark Bank is one of the six winners of Avaya’s 2013 Customer Innovation Awards to be honored Tuesday at IAUG’s CONVERGE2013 conference in Orlando Read the case study about another winner, the UK’s ESSA Academy, which has deployed iPads to all of its students and faculty running Avaya Flare Communicator or one-X Communicator. And follow Avaya podcasters Mark Fletcher and Guy Clinch this week, as they interview some of the other winners). 

Emerson understood why her boss was anxious. Based in Columbia, Missouri, the profitable $1.8 billion community bank had grown to more than 40 retail locations scattered across a total area larger than Brazil. Landmark had bank presidents in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Texas responsible for overseeing branch operations in their respective states. The CEO needed to connect regularly with his regional executives.

Brenda Emerson Landmark Bank.jpg
Photo Credit: Grant Hindsley
“We want to serve customers when, where, and how they want, but we have to do it with an affordable model.” – Brenda Emerson, CIO Landmark Bank

Title: Senior Vice-President and Chief Information Officer, Landmark Bank, overseeing an 18-person IT department. Experience: 26 years at Landmark Bank and its predecessor firms.

Education: B.S. in Business Administration and Computer Science, Central Methodist College (now University).

In addition, the bank’s board of directors lived from one end of the country to the other, literally, with one residing in Alaska and another in New Jersey. Given the highly regulated business of banking, regular board meetings among board members were essential. But expecting all of them to jump on planes for every meeting was unrealistic.

“That made communication among board members a challenge,” Emerson says with understatement.

With such an aggressive schedule, she turned to Avaya. Emerson, who began working at the bank 26 years ago while studying at the University of Missouri, says Avaya has been a strong partner for the IT department over the years. And she should know, having risen through the IT ranks at Landmark Bank–from supporting an IBM mainframe in the 1980s to administering the company email system in the 1990s, to managing the software department at the turn of the century, to finally being appointed CIO three years ago.

With her tenure, Emerson was well aware of the company’s previous video conferencing experience with a Tandberg internal system that was well past its prime. User adoption was low, and no one in IT shed a tear when it was mothballed. But the need for video conferencing not only persisted–it had grown.

Trust Is Key 

Before the end of the year , Emerson’s team had deployed the Avaya Scopia?video conferencing solution. They installed the Scopia Elite 5110 MCU, providing Landmark Bank with 10 high-definition (HD) continuous-presence ports and up to 40 enhanced-definition connections.

They also rolled out 12 Scopia XT5000 room systems, each of which features two simultaneous 1080p/60fps video channels and 10X zoom optical cameras. The system delivers HD video quality with multistream telepresence and includes up to 24 video layout possibilities for viewing conferences of more than two dozen participants.

Yet, despite the steady use of this new high-quality video, Emerson did not have to upgrade the bank’s network. Scopia’s bandwidth management features optimize performance in line with available capacity.

Gibbens uses the Scopia technology nearly every day for meetings. Regional presidents are using the system to run daily meetings with distant bank managers. The bank has begun centralized management training courses over Scopia, significantly reducing travel time and expense. And, of course, the board of directors uses it regularly.

Successful deployments like this are why Landmark Bank was named this year’s winner of the Avaya Customer Innovation Award for transformations by enterprises under 1,000 employees. Emerson offers several reasons for Scopia’s success compared with the previous Tandberg system. First, she says, the features and video quality are far superior. Its user interface is also more intuitive than the Tandberg system installed in 2003. Also, social media has made users today much more comfortable seeing themselves on screen, overcoming a psychological barrier that inhibited people only a decade ago.

Eye to the Future

Even with the bank’s full embrace of Scopia, Emerson says, “We’ve barely scratched the surface.” In the near term, Landmark Bank will install high-end video rooms in bank branches so customers will be able to have one-on-one meetings with bank specialists. For example, with Scopia, the bank can have trust officers serve customers at multiple bank branches, including distant ones. This lets Landmark build new revenue streams without overinvesting in staff.

Emerson’s development team is also using Scopia as the foundation for an Internet-based training of banking services that targets its commercial customers. Emerson’s vision for Scopia is sweeping. She imagines tying video with social media and mobile so that one day, customers will be able to do transactions with live tellers via video over their smartphone, tablet, or PC.

“We want to serve customers when, where, and how they want,” she says, “but we have to do it with an affordable model.”

With Scopia, she says, Landmark has a tool that both staff and customers can engage with in a meaningful, productive, and cost-effective way. It delivers necessary efficiencies for today while widening the horizon for business opportunities in the near future.

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