Bank shaves up to 40% off telecom costs using UC

WesBanco's Cisco network already pays for itself

West Virginia-based WesBanco Bank, which provides financial services to the residents and businesses of West Virginia, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania, grows through acquisition.

In addition to buying the assets of other banks it takes on the liabilities too – specifically, disparate, disjointed and far-flung telecommunications networks that were difficult to integrate and manage.

"When you go through those acquisitions you inherit what they have in place," says Mark Krupinski, WesBanco senior vice president and data security officer. "We had a conglomerate of different key systems out there. People couldn't go from facility to facility and know how to communicate effectively. It came to a point in time where we decided we need to redesign it to be a multiservicing network."

WesBanco began planning its unified communications network in 2004 and deploying it in late 2005. The bank decommissioned several decentralized PBX systems from multiple vendors and installed a centralized Cisco Unified Communications Manager call control, systems at its Wheeling, W.Va., headquarters and Cisco Integrated Services Routers (ISR) at branch locations.

The system performs call control and routing for 2,000 Cisco IP phones at 160 locations, Krupinski says. It also provides four-digit dialing, in-house audio conferencing and group distribution of voice mails.

Diagram of WesBanco network

WesBanco invested $1.5 million to $2 million into the network and it's already paid for itself. The bank is shaving $1.2 million per year off its telecommunications costs, a reduction of 33% to 40%, Krupinski says.

"It floated to the level of the board of directors, and the CFO was marching in himself to say, 'Look what we saved on this project,'" he says.

Much of that savings is due to:

• Local telecom cost reduced by 63%.

• Long-distance cost reduced by 69%.

• Equipment\maintenance cost reduced by 45%.

• Leased line expense reduced by 21%.

• Other communication-related expenses reduced by 18%.

The system features toll bypass, which allows WesBanco to eliminate plain old telephone system lines to local carriers and, in essence, become its own phone company. Calls to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, are like calling down the hall, Krupinski says.

But the success of the deployment is because of education and training of WesBanco personnel on the features and functions of their new phones; and to a gradual and phased rollout of the system.

"We were really big on educating our user community on what it was they were going to get and how that was going to be different," Krupinski says. "We pushed our education internally hard. We went out and took the time to mimic, Day One, this is how you were used to doing your phone calls before we came in; and then we're going to come back and try to do things for efficiency reasons. Where some mistakes were made is a lot of people come in and say, 'Look at all these wonderful things you can do and we're going to do them all Day One.' You end up confusing your user community."

On its intranet, WesBanco produced a Web site that featured every phone being deployed and how it worked. On the technical side, the bank's IT staff compiled a copious checklist of the calling behaviors and patterns of each department – hunt groups, special features -- for inclusion in a companywide deployment template.

"That's how we became more successful with Extension Mobility and Toll Bypass and putting in an intercompany directory," Krupinski says.

Extension Mobility enables WesBanco staff members at a remote branch to download all of the attributes of their home branch phone –– including speed-dial settings and voice-mail greetings – by logging into an IP phone.

UCM and the IP phones were tested and deployed in the IT department first. The IT staff took snapshots of the network to determine how it behaved in its best and worst conditions. The bank then scrutinized the impact of adding voice on the network and then video, ATM traffic and security alarms.

"We have to be very tuned in to how to shape that traffic appropriately," Krupinski says.

WesBanco then rolled it out to a portion of its headquarters facility, and then once those rollouts moved, the bank started picking groups and geographies for deployment.

"By the end of the project, rolling over a branch was nothing," Krupinski says. "The deployments became so standardized it was like installing a PC. In an hour to two hours, we'd have that branch up. You can never do that with the multiple PBXs and key systems in the environment that we had."

The most difficult problem the bank faced was coordinating number porting with the local telcos.

"When we rolled into a branch we would port all the numbers over and take control over them," Krupinski says. "But when you issue ports and you work with the local telcos, they give you a date and you got to be ready on that date to have the phones flipped over so people can make their calls. If you don't, then nobody can make any calls, the branch doesn't have any communications. But sometimes the telcos would do that a day early."

Next up for the bank is multimedia conferencing using the Cisco Unified MeetingPlace application. This will allow personnel to dynamically schedule videoconference calls with other staffers instead of setting up a specific day and time to conduct them.

WesBanco is also exploring the use of virtual sales experts who will be able to answer questions and begin applications when customers walk into branches. Unified Contact Center could allow the virtual sales experts to "meet" with customers from almost anywhere –– a call center, another branch, or from headquarters miles away.

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