Top 10 Community Bank IT Initiatives

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Palmetto Bank
HQ: Greenville, S.C.
Asset size: $1 billion
Project: Updating all customer-facing technology, including voice response, deposit capture and wire transfer technology.
Why we chose it: It's an impressive array of upgrades conducted by a relatively small bank in a short period of time.

Mark Terry faced a daunting duty last spring.

As the newly minted chief information officer of The Palmetto Bank, he was charged with updating the nearly decade-old technology the $1 billion asset bank was using to serve its customers.

There were imaging systems. A new email system. An internet banking portal. And new ATMs, to name a few of the new products installed.

"The main thing I did for a few months was meet with all of our senior leadership," Terry says of the earliest planning stages that launched the Greenville, S.C. bank into the costly nine-month project.

At the start there was an overhaul of the bank's voice response software just last May. The new technology gives customers their account balances and transaction histories and lets them complete money transfers. Four months later, there was the launch of the bank's updated online banking system, which gives customers the ability to see the impact of transactions on their online bank account immediately.

The enhancements included new deposit capture and wire transfer services for corporate customers.

After that, Palmetto's email enrollment system for e-statements was replaced by a program that lets customers automatically enroll once they sign up for internet banking.

And finally there was a new mobile banking portal and app and three new Diebold automated teller machines.

In order to pay for the changes, the bank consolidated two branches and sold two others. Terry says it took a lot of executive "buy-in" to make all the changes happen.

"We are a community sized bank; we don't have a huge amount of staff or a huge budget to go out and do these things," he says. "If you think about the compliance, the marketing, the client support, all of those people had to be on the same page."

Still, one of the biggest obstacles to finishing his initial task was lining up his priorities.

"Everything that we did impacted" something else, he says.

The online banking platform was of course connected to the mobile system; the mobile system then had to work with the email enrollment software; and so on. Terry hired a project manager to help and created procedures for all those steps along the way.

"This year we are looking at several automation projects around document imaging and document tracking [upgrades]," he says. "We're looking at personal finance systems, fraud monitoring systems for mobile banking and adding person to person payments."

-By Sean Sposito

The First National Bank of Allendale & Mount Carmel
HQ: Allendale, Ill.
Asset size: $170 million
Project: The launch of a responsive design website and its first mobile app.
Why we chose it: The early adoption of responsive design technology and techniques puts the bank a step ahead of many. Its website, which uses Adobe Flash graphics, now works well on iOS devices.

When the president of The First National Bank found he could not access his bank's website on his Apple device, something had to give. The bank, with two branches in rural Illinois, decided to upgrade its website, which at the time relied on Adobe Flash graphics.

"It was our president (Robert Coleman) who totally led the effort," says Kristin Schrader, assistant CFO. "He's a big iPad user. ...When our website didn't load on his device, he prompted us to start talks about what to do."

Satisfied with the website's design but hankering for it to properly work across all devices, The First National Bank turned to its existing website developer and host provider, Banno, less than a year ago to help facilitate an update. This January, the new site went live.

Though the look and feel of the website is similar to the previous design, customers' digital banking experiences are expected to improve.

That is because Banno included a responsive design format that allows for automatic content adjustment for desktop, smartphone and tablet users. The idea behind responsive design, which is relatively new to the financial services industry, is to reduce the navigation required of the banking customer.

In the previous iteration, Banno had created a full online banking site and a simplified mobile site for the bank. With the upgrade, the bank now boasts one full version of the site that uses media queries to restyle content to suit the screen size and capabilities of device the viewer is using.

In conjunction with revamping its website, The First National Bank pushed out its first mobile app. At launch, the app, which uses Banno's software, offers basic features like transaction viewing, as well as something that many banks' mobile apps do not yet have: the ability to aggregate other financial accounts, should a customer wish. Schrader hints that bill pay and bank transfers will come next to the mobile app's feature set.

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