Feb 1, 2005 12:00 PM

Fifth Third Bank, Cincinnati, is one of the 15 largest full-service financial institutions in the United States, with approximately $98 billion in assets and more than 1,000 locations in eight states throughout the Midwest and Florida.

Like many of its counterparts in the financial sector, the bank previously handled video monitoring and recording in its banking centers and other high-security locations using standalone analog VHS technology. But that increasingly outmoded technology was no longer proving efficient, says Mike Neugebauer, assistant vice president of corporate safety and security for Fifth Third.

"One of the greatest risks we and other financial institutions face," Neugebauer says, "is depositor fraud, which can take the form of people coming into a branch location to deposit checks that are stolen, or using stolen credit or debit cards, or opening up accounts under a false identity. It is essential that we have excellent video capability to recreate such events."

"We started looking for a new solution more than a year ago," Neugebauer continues. "We made our final decision in early spring and have just now completed our initial phase of the rollout of new networked digital video recorders and accompanying management software. We currently have more than 350 of the new digital video recorders (DVRs) in the field, and for 2005, we are planning a very aggressive replacement program."
The search for technology

Neugebauer describes the system procurement and rollout process Fifth Third underwent as a collaborative effort between the bank's security and IT teams and external security consulting firms. Physical security manager Victor Mahon and Neugebauer's team in Cincinnati are responsible for establishing physical security policy, standards and procedure for Fifth Third locations nationwide. The IT department's involvement and recommendations, however, were essential to the success of the rollout. He adds that the high value of that partnership was an important lesson learned in the process.

"Owing to our previous research, we knew what we did not want in a video recording system," Neugebauer says. "So that gave us a pretty good idea what we did want. We knew we had to find a system our IT department could support. The DVRs needed to be able to live in Fifth Third's IT environment without incident."

Neugebauer points to the accelerating rate at which physical and electronic security systems are being developed for and driven by networks. "The days of analog are really gone," he says simply. "Surveillance functions that previously took hours, take seconds in a network environment. There's just no substitute for that."

In the procurement process, Fifth Third looked at about a dozen video recording units both formally and informally, according to Neugebauer, bringing the choice down to a final two that could meet the company's needs. Security then turned those two units over to the IT department, which performed compatibility testing on the units in both a lab environment and in the field for criteria such as bandwidth usage, data security and system vulnerability.

It was the IT department that ultimately recommended the 4000 series Digital Video Recorders (DVRs) and Enterprise Management Suite software from March Networks Corp., Ottawa.

Security integrators Diebold and Securitas provided the DVRs, and Neugebauer pays credit to their continuing and valuable role in system implementation at Fifth Third locations around the country. The rollout has gone mainly without incident and has been smooth, Neugebauer says, with one trouble spot proving to be quite a benefit: "The new recorders watch and record 24/7," he explains, "so they have really educated us regarding the effectiveness of our cameras. We are now able to manage not only the digital recorders, but the devices attached to them. With the old systems, we had no way of knowing if a camera was out unless someone in a banking center was checking for a problem, and that presented the unacceptable opportunity for us not to have the necessary video, should fraud, robbery or other incident arise."

The bank has in fact been able to see, in real-time, when cameras are not functioning properly and has specified new, high-resolution cameras to replace the old ones.
Network provides safety net

The new recorders and cameras are located in banking centers, corporate offices, data centers anywhere a risk is identified, says Neugebauer, and because they run on the bank's IT network, each of those cameras is recorded all the time.

Monitoring of cameras throughout the country from one central monitoring station at corporate headquarters in Cincinnati is handled using the March Networks Enterprise Management Suite. "This rollout has been very beneficial for us," Neugebauer says. "The units give us the opportunity to retrieve photos of a robbery event or such incident instantly, but also of anything from depositor fraud to a customer slipping and falling. We can be watching these incidents transpire in real-time and respond while they are in progress."

"Previously, we would have to call the banking center, ask them to send us the tape, then we would sit for hours, reviewing the tape in hopes of finding a photo of the event," he continues. "Now, within a matter of seconds, we can search the DVRs and have the images in our hands, or the hands of investigators or law enforcement."

Branch locations maintain responsibility for their own security, but the networked video capabilities now enable corporate headquarters to function as a backup or a safety net, so the branches know they are covered.

"Overall, we have had better than a 99 percent in service rate with these DVRs, and with the heightened integration, the benefits can only increase," Neugebauer says. He adds that new for 2005 at Fifth Third is an alarm monitoring package called MAS from GE Security, which will be integrated with the bank's existing Casi-Rusco (now GE) access control system and with the new DVRs and cameras, thus reducing a three- or four-step process into a seamlessly integrated security portfolio.

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