Columbia Bank Unified and Centralized Bank Security


Since 1993, Columbia Bank has been putting people first. What began as a single community bank has now grown into 150 branches spread throughout Washington, Oregon and Idaho. The bank provides a broad range of financial solutions and expertise to businesses and individuals. The company is also committed to offering services and supporting programs that help build stronger communities. It’s why Columbia Bank uses the latest and most robust security technology to protect assets, clients and staff, and to help keep neighborhoods safe.

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

Solution – Standardizing on unified security across all branches
Today, the Columbia Bank security team manages over 1,200 IP cameras across 60-plus locations using Genetec™ Security Center. With support from their integrator, Cook Security Group Inc., the bank knew that Security Center would easily allow them to evolve operations over time, with devices of their choice. Today, regional security managers monitor both video and intrusion detection alarms across several locations from a single unified solution. From an intuitive map interface, they receive instant alerts to real-time issues which they can address faster than ever before. In keeping with their core values, the team also works closely with law enforcement to foster safer communities.

Columbia Bank oversees security across 60-plus branch locations using Genetec Security Center
At Columbia Bank, the upgrade to Security Center is happening one branch at a time. In 2019, over 60 locations were running the unified platform with the Security Center Omnicast™ video surveillance system. The bank installed their own servers and chose a mix of cameras from Axis Communications, Samsung and Vivotek. When the upgrade is complete, the security team will have access to 4,000 cameras across all 150 branches and offices. The security platform provides easy system access to regional security managers who monitor alarms and video within their territory from remote offices.

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

Managing video and intrusion from one 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’s happening.

“The system immediately alerts us to any real-time issues. In the past, the police would have been dispatched immediately following an incident, but our team may have been notified 5-10 minutes later. Now, if an intrusion alarm goes off or a teller presses the panic button, video of the event will automatically come up on our monitors. The system also emails our users an event notification with a video snapshot attached. This ensures that no matter where we are, we can respond quickly,” explained Armstrong.

With such ease of access to video, Columbia Bank is also helping to strengthen 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 neighboring businesses, and near-fatal traffic accidents on adjacent roadways.

An intuitive map interface for any skill level
The security team works in Security Center’s map interface to speed up response and investigation time. Since every branch is unique, the visual layout helps users find camera views and intrusion alarm points faster. Other departments such as the fraud team benefit too.

“Our fraud team handles many cases regarding identify theft and elder abuse. While they have access to the system, they aren’t always familiar with where the cameras are located. With a map interface and simple time-based search functionalities, it’s easier for them to find and extract video evidence and get it over to law enforcement,” said Armstrong.

With very little training, other departments have learned how to easily navigate the system too. For instance, the facilities team views video to validate if contracted work was completed on time and to their standards. They’re also considering using the video system as a cost-effective means 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 video surveillance system that we didn’t initially consider. For instance, there are laws requiring certain levels of lighting around ATMs, so we’re using the system to check whether outdoor lighting is adequate. From a liability perspective, we can also see whether our contracted vendors such as landscaping and snow removal companies are doing a good job to reduce the potential for any slips or accidents outside our branches,” explained Armstrong.

Faster maintenance extends huge savings
Every morning, the regional managers open a task in Security Center that gives them a quick snapshot of intrusion device statuses. 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 located and address the issue before it leads to bigger risks.

“Prior to having this system, we only knew whether our intrusion devices were working correctly every 30 days. Now, we know in less than 24 hours. Not only are we better securing our sites, but our business management team loves this because we’re operating more efficiently and extending savings to the company,” said Armstrong.

Banking on more unification
When 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 reviewing the benefit of adding Security Center’s automatic license plate recognition cameras to the entrances of branch lots in busy downtown locations. This will allow the retail team to discreetly identify repeated abuse of reserved customer parking spots.

“Genetec not only provides top-notch support, but we know that they are a company who leads the way with the latest security trends. Security Center is an intuitive solution that allows us to monitor all our systems from one platform and gives us the freedom to evolve our system exactly how we want to. From a security and operational perspective, our team is more effective and adding greater value to the business, while also extending these perks to the communities around us,” Armstrong concluded.

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