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Tech upgrades at Valley National Bank will mean fewer branch employees

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Valley National Bancorp will spend millions to upgrade technology across its branches over the next five years, a transition expected to enable the bank to operate on fewer employees.

The Wayne-based holding company for Valley National Bank on Wednesday unveiled a restructuring effort that calls for increased online and mobile banking options combined with onsite upgrades at its branches. The company said the initiative will improve customer experience and reduce operating costs.

Valley National spokesman March Piro said via email the transition will result in fewer branch-based employees, but how many jobs will be affected hasn't been tallied. He said the company is still finalizing details of how it will implement the upgrades, a process expected to start in early 2014.

The industry in general is ramping up technology in ways that enable customers to bank online from basically anywhere via desktop or mobile devices. That's consistent with the trend toward more electronic payments and fewer in-person transactions.

For instance, the upgrades will allow remote deposits through Valley National's new app as well as the ability to open deposit accounts online.

"We are adapting to these emerging demands to engage more tech savvy customers in today's banking industry," Valley's First Senior Vice President Andrea Onorato said in a statement.

Valley National operates 204 branches scattered across 16 New Jersey counties plus part of New York City and Long Island.

Piro said exact cost of the multi-year plan hasn't been determined since the company is still determining which branches will be converted, but he said the project will cover most branches and will cost several million dollars a year.

The initiative includes on-site upgrades including:

- Interactive video teller machines that will allow branch customers to interact with customer service representatives based in Wayne headquarters.

- Automated cash machines that will handle and count money for branch customers, relieving tellers of that responsibility.

- New ATMs that include separate slots for cash and checks and provide images of each check and an itemized list of bills deposited by denomination.

Valley National employs about 2,900 workers including about 800 tellers.  The company reports $16 billion in assets.

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