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September 4, 2007

Frost to offer 'video' banking to deaf customers

From: - Charlotte,NC,USA - Sept 4, 2007

Houston Business Journal - by Greg Barr

Frost National Bank is set to roll out a videoconferencing program in Texas to allow deaf customers to communicate with bank employees.

The sign language interpreting services for deaf and hard-of-hearing customers -- the first such agreement with a U.S. financial institution -- is set up with San Antonio-based Deaf Link. Financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

"Customers have the right to understand and make informed decisions about their finances, and this is another way we can fulfill our obligation to provide that service," said Paul Olivier, Frost Bank group executive vice president.

A Frost spokeswoman said Tuesday that the bank initially will make the videoconferencing service available at four locations in San Antonio but is committed to linking up select offices in Houston and other Texas cities by the end of 2008.

The customer will be able to sit at a video conference station with a banker for interpretive services provided through a real-time encrypted video link to American Sign Language interpreters at Deaf Link.

"For many deaf or hard-of-hearing, opening a bank account for the first time can be a daunting experience," said Kay Chiodo, Deaf Link chief executive officer.

"For some, the only bank account they've ever had was the first one opened up for them by someone else. The opportunity to have access and choice in making direct financial decisions for themselves is enormous, and Frost is truly setting precedent for other banks to follow."

According to statistics gathered by Gallaudet University, one of 10 Americans is deaf or hard of hearing, representing about 28 million people.

Frost Bank is the banking subsidiary of San Antonio-based financial holding company Cullen/Frost Bankers Inc. (NYSE: CFR).

© 2008 American City Business Journals, Inc.