Video conferencing, an automated safety deposit box, and secure mobile applications among the new features.

<p>Brad Dinsmore, SunTrust corporate executive vice president of Consumer Banking and Private Wealth Management, and Maureen Portee, branch manager, vice president, at the 'Innovation Branch' in the SunTrust Plaza Garden building downtown.</p>

Brad Dinsmore, SunTrust corporate executive vice president of Consumer Banking and Private Wealth Management, and Maureen Portee, branch manager, vice president, at the 'Innovation Branch' in the SunTrust Plaza Garden building downtown.

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<p>A hand scan provides access to a fully automated safety deposit box system.</p>

In an effort to stay in stride with both industry technology and the expectations of its customers, SunTrust Banks Inc. is using a downtown branch as a testing ground for new services.

Its “innovation branch” located in the SunTrust Plaza Garden building across from a Caribou Coffee shop is at the crossroads of several buildings providing it with daily foot traffic from SunTrust Plaza, the SunTrust Plaza Garden,  the Atlanta Marriott Marquis I and II and the Peachtree Center complex.

“Our clients who have been to Singapore and elsewhere around the world are used to these applications,” Brad Dinsmore, corporate executive vice president of Consumer Banking and Private Wealth Management, told Global Atlanta.

The bank is using both hardware and software provided by locally based NCR Corp., but hasn’t limited itself to U.S. companies.

A standout among the new features is an automated safety deposit box system that allows clients to access their valuables using their debit card, pin number and hand scan.

This system developed by Hamilton Safe Companies, which is owned by the Swedish firm Gunnebo Security Group, is the first of its kind to be installed in the U.S.

Much as the airline industry has adapted to mobile technologies, Mr Dinsmore said that the banking industry must follow suit both to meet client expectations but also to increase efficiency and security.

These technological advances, however, still require personnel to provide personal service and allow the bank to expand their banking hours.

For instance, the bank’s “Teller Connect” machines allow clients to automatically conduct a wide range of transactions including check cashing.

If the client is in need of personal assistance, however, he or she can conduct a video conference call to a remote teller. Meanwhile, the SunTrust Plaza Garden branch is open from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. five days a week and has seven employees working there.

Another first for a “super regional bank” such as SunTrust, according to Mr. Dinsmore, is the branch’s 80-inch Microsoft Surface touch screen allowing users to learn about the bank’s various accounts and services.

For SunTrust clients, including those who travel internationally, the new technologies enable them to access their accounts through their tablets and mobile phones from anywhere in the world via Wi-Fi.

SunTrust is taking a step-by-step approach in opening new “innovation branches.” The next launch for such a branch is to take place this summer in the Washington neighborhood of Georgetown.

Thirty-five Teller Connect machines are due to be tested in the bank’s footprint that extends throughout Georgia, Florida, Maryland, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and the District of Columbia with nearly 1,500 retail branches and 2,200 ATMs.

For more information about the "innovation branch," call Angela Amberg, vice president, corporate relations, at (404) 813-1885 or send an email to angela.amberg@suntrust.com

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