Bank security

Columbia Bank Unified and centralized banking security


Since 1993, Columbia Bank has put people first. What started as one community bank has now grown to 150 branches spread across Washington State, Oregon and Idaho. The bank offers a wide range of financial solutions and expertise to businesses and individuals. The company is also committed to providing services and support programs that help build stronger communities. That’s why Columbia Bank uses the latest and most robust security technology to protect assets, customers and staff, and to help keep neighborhoods safe.

Challenges – The frustrations of technology that cannot scale
When Columbia Bank decided to install high-resolution IP cameras in a few branches, the security team discovered that their existing video solution couldn’t support the new devices. They turned to the manufacturer for help, who were unable to provide an adequate solution. The team also discovered that the current system used embedded software, which was not scalable or compliant with internal IT policies. Columbia Bank knew that a highly scalable open software platform was needed to accommodate future growth and wanted to partner with a vendor that stayed on top of key security trends.

Solution – Unified security standardization across all branches
Today, Columbia Bank’s security team manages over 1,200 IP cameras at more than 60 locations using Genetec™ Security Center. With the support of its integrator, Cook Security Group Inc., the bank knew that Security Center would easily allow it to scale its operations over time, with the devices of its choice. Today, regional security managers monitor both video and intrusion detection alarms across multiple sites from a single unified solution. From an intuitive map-based interface, they receive instant, real-time problem alerts that they can resolve faster than ever. In keeping with their core values, the team also works closely with law enforcement to foster safer communities.

Columbia Bank oversees security at over 60 branches using Genetec Security Center
At Columbia Bank, upgrading to Security Center is done one branch at a time. In 2019, more than 60 sites used the unified platform with the Security Center Omnicast™ video surveillance system. The bank installed its own servers and chose a combination of Axis Communications, Samsung and Vivotek cameras. Once the upgrade is complete, the security team will have access to 4,000 cameras across 150 branches and offices. The security platform provides easy access to the system for regional security managers who monitor alarms and video in their territory from remote offices.

“Security Center allowed me to scale without having to dramatically increase the size of my department. It’s huge from a cost perspective. We are working more efficiently than ever in terms of monitoring and maintaining our security systems,” said Ross Armstrong, vice president of physical security at Columbia Bank.

Video and intrusion management from a single platform
Within the security platform, video is unified with the bank’s Digital Monitoring Products (DMP) intrusion detection system. This allows the security team to receive intrusion alarms alongside live video to quickly see what is happening.

“The system immediately alerts us to any problem in real time. In the past, the police would have been dispatched immediately after an incident, but our team could have been notified 5-10 minutes later. Now, if an intruder alarm goes off or a cashier presses the panic button, video of the event will automatically show on our monitors. The system also sends our users an event notification with a video snapshot as an attachment. This ensures that no matter where we are, we can respond quickly,” Armstrong explained.

With such easy access to video, Columbia Bank is also helping to enhance community safety. Since installing Security Center, the bank has been able to provide video evidence to law enforcement for various incidents involving nearby shootings, burglaries at nearby businesses, and near-fatal traffic accidents on adjacent roads.

An intuitive map interface for all skill levels
The security team works in the Security Center map interface to speed up response and investigation times. Since each branch is unique, the visual layout helps users find camera views and intrusion alarm points faster. Other departments such as the fraud team also benefit.

“Our anti-fraud team handles many cases of identity theft and elder abuse. Although they have access to the system, they don’t always know where the cameras are. With a simple map interface and temporal search features, it’s easier for them to find and extract video evidence and turn it over to law enforcement,” Armstrong said.

With very little training, other departments also learned to easily navigate the system. For example, the facilities team reviews the video to validate if the contracted work was completed on time and to their standards. They also plan to use the video system as a cost-effective way to remotely determine if a branch needs an interior refresh, such as new signage, carpeting or furniture.

“We are finding so many uses for the CCTV system that we hadn’t originally considered. For example, there are laws requiring certain levels of lighting around ATMs, so we use the system to check if exterior lighting is adequate. From a liability perspective, we can also see if our contracted suppliers, such as landscaping and snow removal companies, are doing a good job of reducing the risk of slips or accidents outside our branches,” Armstrong explained.

Faster maintenance results in huge savings
Every morning, regional managers open a task in Security Center that gives them a quick snapshot of the status of intrusion devices. They quickly filter the list to see which devices are having issues. Then they go directly to the map interface to see where a specific device is and fix the problem before it leads to bigger risks.

“Before we had this system, we only knew if our intrusion devices were working properly every 30 days. Now we know in less than 24 hours. Not only are we securing our sites better, but our business management team loves it because we run more efficiently and extend savings for the business,” said Armstrong.

Focus on more unification
Once the upgrade is complete, the team wants to tackle the next phase: unifying the existing fire alarm and access control systems into the platform. The bank is also examining the benefit of adding Security Center’s automatic license plate recognition cameras to entrances to branch lots in busy downtown areas. This will allow the retail team to discreetly identify repeated abuse of customer parking spots.

“Genetec not only provides top-notch support, but we know they are a company leading the way with the latest security trends. Security Center is an intuitive solution that allows us to monitor all of our systems from a single platform and gives us the freedom to scale our system exactly as we want. From a safety and operations perspective, our team is more efficient and adds greater value to the business, while extending those benefits to the communities around us,” concluded Armstrong.

To learn more about Genetec’s security solutions for community banks, visit