Protecting employees and customers is bank security’s most important job.

Willie Sutton reportedly said that he robbed banks “because that’s where the money is.” But protecting that money is just one part of bank security’s job. Security must also protect employees and customers, comply with a host of regulations and safeguard data and customer information as banks increasingly open their networks to offer online services. This installment of SDM’s series on vertical market opportunities examines trends in banking technology and tips for success as a bank security services provider.

According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), there were 7,025 FDIC-insured commercial banks as of February 2009, including large global and national banks, regional banks and community or branch banks. Each of these segments has distinct security goals, risks, policies and budgets. Community banks, which generally have under $100 million in assets, make up about 40 percent of the FDIC-insured banks and may present the greatest business opportunity for security dealers and integrators.


Tom Asp, president and CEO, VTI Security, Minneapolis, an independent integrator with 28 years’ experience serving banking, sees similarities in branch bank and retail security. “Both have physical security needs to protect cash drawers, safes, entrances and alarms, and to view, record and recognize customers or guests in their facilities. Like retail, banks are conservative with their security investment. Our customers look for economical products and services that offer ease of use, flexible deployment and efficient serviceability. They are interested only in technologies that can improve efficiency or save money by, for example, streamlining teller and safe deposit operations or reducing fraud.”

Besides efficiency, banks seek technologies that are operator-friendly and unobtrusive. Roy Thurston, senior account manager, Honeywell Security & Communications, Melville, N.Y., adds, “Employees frequently move between branches, so security systems must be easy to operate and consistent throughout an organization’s facilities.”


“Banks can need higher security levels than many other industries,” says Larry Black, director of security solutions for Diebold, the North Canton, Ohio, integrator that has served the banking market for nearly 150 years. “Vaults and chests are central to physical security and banks surround these cash repositories with layers of electronic protection.”

Alarms: VTI Security’s Asp says branch banks’ intrusion alarms cover perimeters and internal sites such as vaults, safes and ATMs. Alarms are monitored by the bank’s integrator or their own central station.

Eric Cechak, vice president of key accounts, Bosch Security Systems, Fairport, N.Y., believes banks are moving away from dial-up phone line monitoring of alarm signals to IP monitoring. “IP monitoring is faster, more reliable and doesn’t require paying for a phone line. Plus, updates can be made from a central location.”

Video Surveillance: Banks are required to install cameras at doors and, in high-crime areas, in or around ATMs. Cameras also are installed behind teller lines and, increasingly, at after-hours depositories and drive-up facilities.

Gary Perlin, vice president, video products, Speco Technologies, Amityville, N.Y., counsels installing dealers to recommend cameras and camera placement that provide the resolution and reproduction (head size) needed to meet regulations and identify people. “A good place to start is a 480-line or higher analog camera,” he says. “Because backlighting is such a problem at teller lines and ATMs, consider wide range dynamic cameras that balance background and foreground lighting to ensure a person’s face can be seen.”

Digital cameras with 1.3 megapixels have three to four times the resolution of analog cameras, so they can reduce the number of cameras needed on premises. “Hybrid cameras provide an affordable analog-to-digital transition option because they work with the bank’s current system and with future networked solutions,” says Perlin.

Video Recording: Most banks record on DVRs. “Banks are interested in upgrading to newer DVRs and enterprise technology that enable them to share information over the network,” comments VTI Security’s Asp. “Newer DVRs also have incorporated facial recognition and video analytics capabilities that give banks more efficient fraud-abatement tools.”

Access Control: Banks seek physical access control solutions to help them reduce false alarms and comply with Sarbanes-Oxley. “Over 80 percent of bank false alarms are caused by cleaning crews or service providers who don’t arm or disarm alarms properly, often because they don’t want to touch the alarm console,” remarks Pat Tobin, executive director, banking solutions, Digital Monitoring Products (DMP), Springfield, Mo. “To combat this problem, banks can implement scheduled access or provide proximity devices that don’t have to make contact with a console.”

Gary Staley, partner and national sales director, RS2 Technologies, Munster, Ind., says “because Sarbanes-Oxley requires auditors to know who has access to what places in the bank, access control has become fairly standard in areas where cash and information are stored, such as teller lines, vault rooms and computer rooms.”

Selected access control technologies depend somewhat on the size of the bank. Branch banks with a small staff may only have a standalone, unmonitored access control keypad. Larger banks use cards and readers. Some use smart cards or cards encoded with biometric information, such as fingerprint, hand scans or retinal scans.

“Improvements in the speed and efficiency of voice and fingerprint biometrics are needed to combat fraud, banking’s preeminent problem,” notes Ted Barron, vice president and security manager, Wells Fargo, San Francisco. “We need some way to use biometrics to verify who people are.” Barron adds that banks also are interested in improved physical locks.


Diebold’s Black observes a trend towards outsourcing of physical security functions, such as monitoring alarms, fire, video management, access control and logical security. “About 80 percent of our banking customers have five branches or less, and employees wear many hats. Outsourcing non-banking functions like security frees employees to focus on banking.”

Wells Fargo’s Barron concurs. “In the near future we’ll see integrators and guard companies offering managed services that go beyond standard alarm monitoring and consulting to include access control products and monitoring such as card issue, tracking, and inventory with event response. There’s a big move to CCTV monitoring for alarm response and verification, but we’ll also see bundled services for response teams, investigative follow-up, and guard applications.”


Banking places heavy demands on security dealers and integrators because there is so much at stake.

“Truthfully, we’re getting what we want now in alarms, video and access control,” says Wells Fargo’s Barron, a 30-year bank security veteran. “People coming to the industry from the network side, however, are interested in improvements based on new communications technologies such as cellular. There’s always an interest in what in-tegrators have to say regarding new technology. But we want to know something is proven before adopting it.” Barron adds, “The best integrators are those that deliver the full range of services needed by a financial institution, from vaults, safes, and ATMs to standard and specialty locks, custom alarms, access control and camera systems. Flexibility in providing these products differentiates the best integrators from the rest.”

“Offer integrated solutions,” states Diebold’s Black. “Alarms must work with the teller line, ATMs, vaults, cash depositories, drive ups. This requires a strong understanding of IT infrastructure and the design and integration of interoperable security systems. Also, emphasize solutions that will help reduce costs. This doesn’t mean banks are looking for the cheapest price. They’re not. They’re looking for consultative expertise, technical competency and end-to-end services from their integrator partners.”

“Banks don’t ask for bids from multiple dealers when adding security devices,” says RS2’s Staley, “They go to the dealer that has earned their trust over time through responsive service. If they don’t have a dealer relationship, they turn to colleagues.”

Staley advises dealers interested in the banking market to begin by developing relationships with local bankers. “A good place to be introduced to bank security people is through industry associations such as a local ASIS chapter,” he notes. Building a strong relationship with a local bank can open doors for more business down the road.