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HSBC: The Virtual Bank

August 5, 2009 | Chris Payatagool

Thumbnail image for cisco_cts3000.jpgby Adi

Video conferencing has come along way from the pioneering systems setup in the 30's to transmit images over closed circuit television systems.  The advent of broadband and super fast Internet connections have allowed companies to take advantage of the technology to improve communications, reduce their carbon footprint and this year mitigate the risks from swine flu.

HSBC are at the forefront of using video conferencing and I went to have a look at their setup last week to see how they're using the commercial tools available.

Video conferencing at HSBC

The centre piece of their network are the 8 Cisco Telepresence rooms located at HSBC offices around the world.  Each room is designed to look identical to all other rooms in the network, so that when the images are beamed onto the three TV screens at the end of the desk it looks like you are sat opposite your colleagues.  We sat down and were joined in the conference by two HSBC employees from their Chicago and Mexico offices respectively.

The audio and video was being beamed over a high speed private network, ensuring the quality is comparable to watching images on the television, it was literally like they were in the room with us. There was none of the lag or picture break up that you often get with video conferencing.

The system doesn't come cheap, costing the company approximately $1,200 per week providing a payback of less than 15 business class return flights per year. And use it HSBC have. They've dived headlong into making their company more sustainable and the video conferencing facilities are a major element of that. They have averaged approximately 400 hours of telepresence usage each month, cutting travel costs by approximately 15% since it was installed.

    Video isn't only about reducing travel costs and reducing our carbon footprint, we are using it to improve engagement and team communication to maximise productivity
    Matthew O'Neill, Group Head of Communication Systems & Support HSBC

The company is looking to take a smart approach to their deployment by logging both the most frequent flyers and the most frequently used location hubs and installing the facilities there. A reduction in travel is a central part of their Corporate Sustainability strategy and they've set a target of a 10% reduction in carbon emissions resulting from air travel in 2009 and a 20% reduction in total by the end of 2011 per full time equivalent.  

In addition to Telepresence there are over 550 traditional video conference rooms, using one camera and a plasma screen per room to join multiple rooms together.  And whilst the newest deployments are using High Definition Video Cameras, the quality still quite as high as the Telepresence system but nevertheless they provide an easy way to meet virtually whilst also providing screen sharing capabilities allowing much greater levels of collaboration.  Teams are now seeing the benefits of moving from the old way of meeting (using conference phones) and instead using Video. With communication being more than just the words that are spoken, video can help both presenter and recipient(s) communicate more effectively, demonstrably improving comprehension and commitment.

The company is also making increasing use of desktop conferencing, using dedicated High Definition Desktop Video equipment to over 800 locations, allowing Executives to join Video Conference meetings from their desks or even their homes.  An address book on the video system and software integration with the banks intranet allows video calls to be quickly established without the need for IT support or having to navigate numeric addresses - simplicity and ease of use have helped to increase usage.

The benefits are clear when usage figures of 1.6 million minutes across all HSBC sites were clocked up in June and a total of 6.5 million minutes in the first half of 2009.

Finally the company has started to deploy PC software on laptops and have provided high quality webcams that provide staff with the ability to connect to the video conference system wherever they are in the world.

HSBC is also trialling video devices in branches so that customers / clients can communicate with a trained advisor even if one isn't present in the branch itself.

With customers and stakeholders demanding greater corporate sustainability, and the credit crunch demanding greater corporate parsimony video conferencing provides a solution to both questions.
How you can use video conferencing to go green

Below are some ideas for how you can use video conferencing to improve your productivity and become a greener company at the same time.

Telecommuting - Enable people to work from home while still being fully engaged in the workplace with a face-to-face connection. Save on real estate and operational costs, while increasing productivity and morale of employees who don't spend hours in traffic.

Access to Remote Experts - Connecting customers and employees to experts and advisors over video no matter where they are located saves time, money and carbon emissions, and increases customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Global Meetings - Whether meeting with the board or your global team, there's no need for a flight. Just a short walk down the hall or a quick call from the desk and everyone can meet face-to-face.

Work/life Balance - Employees who are always on the road often report more stress, less productivity and reduced job satisfaction. Video removes the need to travel, increasing morale, productivity, and collaboration.

Team Building - Multiple offices don't have to mean isolated teams. Video allows remote team-mates to see each other as often as if they were in the same office, building camaraderie without associated travel.

Real-time Collaboration - Organizations can deal with large amounts of rich data and collaborate in real-time from multiple locations with the visual and multi-media capabilities of video conferencing instead of losing productivity from rigorous travel out into the field.

Sustainability - Reduce the environmental impact of your day to day activities, by cutting travel, e.g. the number of flights people take, both short and long haul and the number of car journeys

[via The Management Blog]


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