Bank employees provide sign language services to customers
- Smart Banking in Sign Language
- Unicredit Bank Austria AG
- Country of Implementation
- Western Europe
- Start Year
- First published
“It is a beautiful experience and is important for me to be able to communicate with my clients in their own language! That is why I learned sign language.” Gabriella Stuhr, SmartBanking Sales Manager, UniCredit Bank Austria
UniCredit Bank Austria, a major Austrian banking group, introduced “Smart Banking in Sign Language” nationwide in 2015. They are the first and only financial institution in Austria to provide advice on banking products in Austrian Sign Language. Initially cooperating with the Service Centre of the Austrian Sign Language Society, UniCredit Bank Austria is now using their own employed sign language interpreters to translate banking service for their deaf and hearing-impaired clients. Three sales managers are available for consultation in sign language as part of the ‘online branch’.
About 10,000 people in Austria communicate through sign language. For the deaf or hearing-impaired, sign language is often the only possibility for accessible and comprehensive communication.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
Since 2015, UniCredit Bank Austria has been offering Austria-wide consultations for customers in the form of sign language via video calls. The concept allows for a variety of transactions (e.g., investment strategy, real estate financing, loan transactions, pension insurance plans, savings, etc.) to be performed, and is available from Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. by appointment. The key innovative of “Smart Banking in Sign Language” is its availability via webcams, thus making the process independent of going to a physical location, as well as making the self-organization of sign language translation obsolete. Since most deaf or hearing-impaired persons are at ease with the use of such visual communication channels, the barrier to using this service is low. Three sales managers are available for consultation in sign language as part of the ‘online branch’, with one soon to become a state-certified sign language interpreter, allowing consultations with banking experts to be interpreted. UniCredit Bank Austria is making an important step in raising awareness of the needs of deaf people in Austria Due to the bank’s personal data policy, information about the number of users is not publicly available.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
UniCredit Bank Austria is further developing its accessibility in other aspects of bank activities, starting with fully accessible bank branches, websites, online banking, forms, and information materials. One of the three sales managers working on this project will soon be a state-certified sign language interpreter and will not only be able to advise in sign language, but also interpret consultations with the bank’s experts, such as in real estate and investments, for deaf clients. There are no costs for the customer, neither for the advice in sign language nor for the sign language interpreter. At the start of the project, external sign language interpreters were hired and paid by Bank Austria, whereas now customer support and translations are carried out by the bank’s own staff.