According to the American Bankers Association, one factor that determines the overall security of a financial institution is the number of “psychological barriers” between the door and the money. Such barriers might include having to be buzzed in to the bank, being greeted by a receptionist or armed guard, or finding the teller stations outfitted with ballistic transaction windows.
Teller windows are an ideal security enhancement for most branches because they can be readily integrated into new or existing construction and, in contrast to hiring security personnel, impose no added ongoing costs. But they can be a tough sell for bank managers: Retail of all sorts–including retail banking–relies on minimizing the psychological barriers between staff and visitors and making every transaction and interaction as pleasant and frictionless as possible.
In his decades of experience designing and installing bullet resistant security systems in financial institutions, Total Security Solutions vice president Jim Richards has found that “the biggest thing is the overall design of the system. That system needs to be aesthetically pleasing and to blend in, so customers don’t even notice it when they walk in. For us, that means a free-standing system–no thick support posts or steel frames–and excellent voice communication.”
NATURAL COMMUNICATION AND BANK TELLER WINDOWS
This would seem like a no-brainer–after all, if your staff and clientele can’t connect, then there’s no business to protect. Nonetheless, poor bank teller window design is distressingly common. “I’ve seen installs where you go in and it’s all ballistic glass in big frames with no voice communication. People are trying to yell through the cash tray–that doesn’t work! I’ve seen it countless times, even in busy locations. If they can’t communicate, the system is pointless”
Jim likewise isn’t a big fan of intercoms in banks (unless the location truly demands it). They have a bad reputation with customers, and tend to obscure the teller’s face. He has instead developed teller window systems that facilitate “natural voice communication.” Jim points to his baffle, arch window, and secure-sound systems, which allow sound to travel naturally without the aid of electronic amplification. The result is a teller windows that offers full security and complete face-to-face visibility.
BANK TELLER WINDOW AESTHETICS
Total Security Solutions favors installing large bullet resistant teller windows that extend from counter to ceiling, anchored with low-profile framing members at the edges. This sort of “free-standing” system–which is made from flame-polished monolithic acrylic–seems to almost magnify the bank’s existing lighting, as in this Total Security Solutions installation:
“You’d be surprised at the number of comments we get when we do a retrofit in an older branch and install a new line of teller windows. People get really excited about how just that change brightens up the branch and makes it look newer.”
Compare that to the “caged in” feeling created by using smaller panes of ballistic acrylic framed out by thick steel supporting members.
Well designed teller windows de-emphasize the “obstructing barrier” to customers. But criminals–who have a keen eye for security–will still see this bank for what it is: a fortress.