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Top 10 Community Bank IT Projects


The banking industry is grappling with a quickly changing technology environment, and that is particularly true for community banks given their fewer resources. Still, several are looking for ways to provide their customers with cutting-edge digital products, overhauling their antiquated systems and using technology to strip out costs and find better uses for their tech teams. The following are ten examples of community banks that have made technology a priority.

Bringing Convenience to the Customer, Even in a Cornfield Fotolia Bringing Convenience to the Customer, Even in a Cornfield First National Bank of Central Texas is now arming its bankers with iPads so that they can open accounts for small business customers on the road. (Get the full story here or see below.)

For First National Bank of Central Texas in Waco, building longstanding ties with its commercial customers means emphasizing personalized, face-to-face interactions.

The $800-million asset bank primarily caters to small-to-midsize business owners who don't have the time in their hectic schedules to come into bank branches to conduct financial business.

"We compete with the big boys, so we have to look at ways to differentiate ourselves," said Steve Mullens, an executive vice president of operations for the bank. "Our customers are very busy — many of them are sole proprietors — so we often have to go to their place of business to meet their needs."

To be better able to serve customers on their own turf, the bank bought a new account opening solution for iPads from FIS in late spring 2015. Now, bankers can complete the entire new account function remotely on the tablet, including the signing of signature cards, check ordering, debit card ordering and providing basic customer services outside of a branch. While the service is also available to open individual retail accounts remotely, it's in business banking where the biggest impact has been realized.

Besides the convenience it provides customers, the new technology has also digitized the account opening process. Documents are emailed to the customer and all of the internal documents are electronically delivered to the bank's imaging system and archived. The solution is interfaced with the bank's core system, FIS's BancPac, and the accounts are opened directly from the iPad.

"The old process was very slow and cumbersome," Mullens said. "There would be a lot of back and forth, we'd have to print documents and image them. Now every document is digital and stored in our systems without paper being produced. It's a seamless process."

Mullens said the bank intends to expand the service to be able to close loans remotely within the next 18 months.

"For example, our ag lender could quite literally close a loan right out in the cornfield, on the hood of a tractor," he said. "These days, people don't come into bank branches as much as they used to … any way we create that personal interaction is something we are interested in."

— Bryan Yurcan

Why Univest's Small-Business Customers Are Happy to Pay Fees iStock Why Univest's Small-Business Customers Are Happy to Pay Fees Univest believes its subscription-based pricing model may have solved a persistent fee conundrum - charging small-business customers for various services without irking them. (Get the full story here or see below.)

Serving small businesses can be a challenge, in part because they often need a lot of attention yet don't add much to the bottom line.

That's why the largest banks tend to pass over this segment in pursuit of bigger businesses. The void creates an opportunity for small banks, but only if they can figure out how to make the time-intensive relationships pay off.

Univest Corp. of Pennsylvania believes it has an answer.

Over the past year and a half, Univest's small-business division has overhauled its loan application process, introduced add-on services that customers typically wouldn't find at a bank and developed a subscription model that allows them to pay a flat rate based on what services they want.

"If we came into that vacuum left by the big banks with the same old labor model, we'd soon figure out the same thing they did," says Hugh Connelly, who oversees Univest's small-business banking. He also serves as president of the bank's national equipment finance company, called Univest Capital.

"Our history is built on being small-business lenders, but without technology, it can be a fairly expensive segment to serve. So what do you do?"

The $2.8 billion-asset Univest, in Souderton, Pa., invested in a technology project that allowed for significantly quicker credit decisions and loan funding — now loans are done in just a couple of days, instead of weeks — while also dramatically cutting expenses.

Such speed gives the bank the ability to better compete with the growing crowd of alternative lenders that offer swift approval and funding, Connelly says.

The ability to deliver fast matters, even though most borrowers aren't actually demanding it, he says. "People want to know it can happen quickly, but don't necessarily need it to happen."

Sam Kilmer, senior director of Cornerstone Advisors, says online competitors have changed the landscape for small-business lending significantly, with their speed and convenience.

Banks realize they have to adapt, Kilmer says, because borrowers care a lot more about getting funding than who provides the funding. "When you're a small-business owner, you're not thinking about the 'who,' you're thinking about the money and getting the money now," he says.

So instead of trying to fit small businesses into other platforms — either commercial banking or consumer banking — more banks are looking into what they can do from a technology perspective to better serve this segment.

Univest's small-business makeover began about 18 months ago with the adoption of nCino's Bank Operating System — which the bank has been customizing ever since.

The system, designed by the prolific small-business lenders at Live Oak Bancshares in Wilmington, N.C., streamlines commercial loans by eliminating repetitive processes. The system has helped catapult the $1 billion-asset Live Oak to second place on the list of most active lenders in the Small Business Administration's 7(a) loan program. It is sandwiched between Wells Fargo and U.S. Bancorp, with $1.15 billion in SBA loans written in fiscal 2015. Live Oak spun out nCino a few years ago.

"It is a sophisticated tool out of the box, but we've adjusted it and modified it," Connelly says. "Not everyone uses the software the same way."

nCino runs on top of Salesforce's customer relationship manager, which brings more efficiency to the credit process by tying the marketing, sales and underwriting together. While nCino is perhaps the most notable example of such a product, others are popping up. For instance, in the fall the private equity firm Riverside Co. bought Baker Hill, a credit origination platform, from Experian and is pairing it with Database Marketing Agency.

"We are seeing marketing, sales and service converging around the delivery channel," Kilmer says.

Expect more banks to adopt such solutions too, rather than pair with an alternative lender.

"Most banks looking to grow in a highly competitive market will take their brand directly to market by upgrading their technology," Kilmer says.

Since moving on to the nCino platform, Univest has made some tweaks, including incorporating its homegrown credit decision modeling into the platform. Univest has been building the model for a decade and wanted to keep it.

Univest also built electronic signature capabilities into the system.

Through its upgrades, Univest managed to shrink the up-front costs of processing a loan 92% between 2014 and 2015. "Something that may have cost a couple of thousand now is a couple of hundred," Connelly says.

While Univest was researching how it could better serve small businesses, it asked those business owners about all of their pain points, not just those associated with traditional banking. From there, it created a list of offerings and bundled them similar to the way cable companies offer telephone and internet services with their cable TV.

"We asked them, 'What are the things you need? What are the things you wish you had? And if we put them together and charged you a fair, reasonable fee, would you pay it?' " Connelly says. "The feedback was, if we built it, they would buy it."

The general thinking is that small businesses, much like retail customers, are averse to paying fees. But a good deal makes all the difference, Connelly says. "Americans are fed up with fees, but they don't mind paying for value."

Univest Prime, which is what the bank calls the bundle of services it offers to small businesses, comes in three forms: a basic package for $24.99; a premium package for $49.99; and a professional package for $74.99. All three packages cover typical small-business banking, cash management and credit.

The basic package adds perks such as five cashier checks a month and mobile deposits.

The professional package includes 15 cashier checks a month, terminals for deposits and payments processing, and LifeLock's "ultimate" identity theft protection.

Connelly says identity theft protection can be especially helpful to small-business owners, because they tend to share their personal information more widely than the average consumer. For instance, office managers may know their boss' Social Security number and mother's maiden name, in order to transact on their behalf.

Univest compares its pricing structure to the one Netflix uses, where customers can choose what they pay based on the level of service they want.

Univest Prime began beta testing a year ago and went live in the summer. Connelly says the products have been well received.

The premium package has been the most successful, and users are getting about $2 worth of bank services for every $1 they spend for the bundled package.

Univest also partnered with a local AT&T distributor to offer all of its small-business customers cheaper cell phone rates. Essentially Univest negotiated a group discount that allows its customers to save between 10% and 30% on their cell phone bills.

The benefits have been an attention-getter, Connelly says. Some customers are initially skeptical of the offer, but more often they are intrigued. Noncustomers wonder why their bank isn't offering something similar.

"As we went down this path, we knew we needed to be more holistic," Connelly says. "We could continue to just be traditional bankers, but I don't think we would have been happy long term."

— Robert Barba

Eastern Bank Turns to YouTube to Build Customer Connections Eastern Bank Turns to YouTube to Build Customer Connections Eastern Bank turned to YouTube videos as a way to connect with customers it picked up in a recent acquisition in New Hampshire. It even got a little help from Rob Gronkowski of the New England Patriots. (Get the full story here or see below.)

Eastern Bank is proving a community bank can use technology to drive a personal connection with its customers at a time when branch transactions continue to decrease.

In 2015, the more than 200-year-old mutual thrift launched a campaign to create videos — some filmed on smartphones — that pull on viewers' heartstrings and are distributed on social media sites. The company had casually made videos in the past, but decided to make it a formal part of its marketing strategy as it plotted ways to connect with the people of New Hampshire, a market it entered through an acquisition in 2014.

"We wanted to make a big splash," said Andrew Ravens, a spokesman for the $9.6 billion-asset bank. "It was one of several tactics to say, 'Hello, Granite State.' "

The novel marketing twist from the community bank serves as an attempt to endear consumers to the bank brand and comes as more and more consumers watch videos online.

The video that garnered the most buzz aired in the weeks leading up to the Super Bowl last year, where the New England Patriots played the Seattle Seahawks. In the video, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski teamed up with businessman and philanthropist Edward Smith to deliver a couch to a single parent in need. Smith was a bank customer and the much-loved Gronk was hired by Eastern to surprise others in footage that was intended to illustrate the bank's commitment to local businesses and its customers. The video got press in Fox Sports, the Boston Globe and The Washington Post.

The long-form, feel-good video content — part of the bank's "Good Things Happen" video series — is an attempt to resonate with consumers and to package content to media members in a way that's modern.

"The primary goal is brand awareness," Ravens said.

And unlike TV ads — which the bank still runs — the cost to distribute online videos is much cheaper.

Among the challenges of exploring the self-made video, however, is quickly cutting what could easily be a 50-minute video into 90 seconds. "You're fighting the urge to make it perfect," Ravens said.

Besides connecting with customers, the videos are also intended to catch the attention of the media, too. Ravens said he believes the press is more receptive to company news when accompanied by compelling art or video.

That's one of the reasons more banks will likely adopt videos as a way to spread their news, he said.

"I think moving forward in 2016 and beyond, you will find more and more companies filming what they are doing," Ravens said.

— Mary Wisniewski

Homemade System for Tracking Vendors Saves Somerset a Bundle Homemade System for Tracking Vendors Saves Somerset a Bundle Asset growth drove the Pennsylvania bank to create software that helps it vet and monitor vendors, with automated tracking of contracts and deadlines and storage of supporting documents. (Get the full story here or see below.)

As Somerset Trust grew rapidly, the management team realized its vendor management system — basically a fireproof steel cabinet and several Excel spreadsheets — would no longer do.

Over five years, the Pennsylvania bank's assets increased by half, to $990 million as of last Sept. 30. Naturally, the number of vendors it works with has increased as well, to more than 100. And the tough vendor risk management guidelines the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council came out with in 2014 added further requirements.

"We were much more reactive to things than proactive," said John Gill, Somerset's chief operating officer. "We weren't effectively managing those relationships moving forward. We saw a chance to step back and build a meaningful process and an application we could use to create a discipline for the whole organization."

The bank first looked for packaged vendor management software that would help people throughout the bank document their due diligence efforts in selecting new vendors, and update and manage vendor contracts and relationships.

After sending out a request for proposals, Gill and his team looked at five off-the-shelf vendor management systems, but none quite suited the bank.

"Every vendor management system we saw a demo of was either overkill from the standpoint that it was difficult to input all the information they were going to try to monitor, or it was not adequate in meeting, for instance, SSAE 16 reviews," said Aaron Hoover, the bank's assistant vice president for branch administration. (Statement on Standards for Attestation Engagements 16 is an auditing standard for third-party vendors.)

So the bank tasked an in-house programmer with building the application (in CodeFusion, a platform for rapid development of Web apps). An intern helped scan and load all the existing vendor documentation into the system.

The system stores and organizes documents related to due diligence, disaster recovery, SSAE 16 reviews, privacy information, annual reviews, financial analysis, contract details, business impact analysis and insurance. It stores meeting minutes and links to pertinent information regarding guidelines and industry standard practices. A dashboard shows the status of the vendor relationship, including any deadlines for contract renewals or disaster recovery tests. Email reminders are also sent for such items. An audit trail shows all actions taken by business owners as they maintain their respective files.

Now when Somerset Trust selects a new vendor, the banker who made the decision goes into the vendor management console to answer several questions about the company, such as, "Is this a critical vendor?" The software provides definitions for these and other terms. Based on the answers, the system determines any extra due diligence steps, insurance coverage or business impact analysis that might be required.

The bank figures the new software has brought about a 25% reduction in labor. Vendor meetings are more productive, the new vendor entry process is streamlined, data collection forms have been standardized, and tracking and monitoring are improved. Preparing for vendor meetings is easier and less time is needed to manage third-party relationships. Somerset Trust executives also say that by having internal programmers develop this technology, the bank saved five figures during implementation and thousands in monthly ongoing fees.

Would Somerset sell this tool to other banks? "We go back and forth on that," Gill said.

— Penny Crosman

Avidia Bank Aims to Stay Ahead of the Curve with Mobile Avidia Bank Aims to Stay Ahead of the Curve with Mobile Several big banks have promised their customers cardless ATMs this year, but customers of the $1.2 billion-asset Avidia have been able to get cash without taking out their cards since last summer. (Get the full story here or see below.)

Avidia Bank of Hudson, Mass., wants to be a bank innovation leader.

It doesn't want to be good at adopting new technology for a community bank — it wants to be an industrywide standout.

That was the motivation behind the bank implementing FIS's Cardless Cash solution, which enables customers to use their app to quickly and securely withdraw cash from the ATM. The company rolled out the product in August.

"We have very forward-thinking leadership," said CarrieAnne Cormier, assistant vice president of retail operations and strategy at the $1.2 billion-asset bank. "I think it's interesting to see this community bank in a sliver of Massachusetts with nine branches roll out something like this."

Cardless ATMs are an increasingly hot topic, and Avidia finds itself in much larger company. BMO Harris installed cardless technology on 750 ATMs last year. JPMorgan Chase and Bank of America both recently announced they would begin rolling out their versions to their ATM networks this year. Even the community banks that offer cardless ATMs are the larger ones — the $22 billion-asset Wintrust Financial, for instance.

Cardless Cash not only served to differentiate their business, but also help to reduce ATM fraud like card skimming and shoulder-surfing. It should speeding up ATM transaction times, and drive mobile-user acquisition and retention, Cormier said.

Avidia's social media team created campaigns with interactive content to go along with the launch that focused on the speed, convenience and security of the feature, Cormier said.

Avidia has seen a 13% increase in mobile app enrollments since introducing Cardless Cash. To the surprise of stakeholders that believed the solution to favored millennials, Cardless Cash adopters ranged from ages 17 to 79, with a median age of 41.

"I expected it to be mostly used by the 40-and-under age group." Cormier said. "As an industry maybe we stereotype age groups, but it turned out not to be true."

Offering services like Cardless Cash greatly aid community banks in their ongoing struggle to retain customers who may be lured to bigger banks offering more digital and mobile services, Cormier said.

"It's harder for community banks to compete with the larger banks" on innovation, she said. "You have to pick and choose your IT projects, and think about what will benefit the customer most."

— Bryan Yurcan

R U THERE? Orrstown Lets Customers Reach Out by Text R U THERE? Orrstown Lets Customers Reach Out by Text Orrstown Bank launched several innovative web initiatives in 2015, including a SMS two-way texting platform and a Zillow-like feature that displays housing listings on its website. (Get the full story here or see below.)

Conversational user interfaces, which let consumers ask for what they want in their own words, are a staple in the mobile world overall. For bank apps, though, the approach is decidedly cutting edge.

That makes Orrstown Bank a trendsetter. The bank Shippensburg, Pa., bank wanted to give consumers an option that would let them easily ask the bank their questions via a smartphone, rather than wait on hold over the phone.

Consumers "don't want to spend their time on that call," said Shashi Korithiwada, the digital technology director at Orrstown.

In February 2015, the $1.2 billion-asset company introduced a feature that lets customers text with its bank agents using tech from Twilio, a private company in San Francisco that is used by companies like Uber.

Text alerts are an increasingly popular way to flag potential fraud or keep customers informed about their account balances, but Orrstown's text function goes a step beyond. Its customers can text the bank requesting that an agent contact them on something personal or to ask a representative on how to get online banking access, for instance.

"It's like the next level of live chat," Korithiwada said.

The bank has been receiving fewer live chat sessions since launching the popular communication option. And luckily, most of the texts thus far are coming to bank agents during typical workday business hours. No matter what time customers text the bank, they receive an immediate response acknowledging the message but agents only follow up during business hours.

The text function is part of a push to enhance the technology at Orrstown, something it has been doing for a few years now.

Another tech feature it rolled out in 2015 was to bake in a Zillow-like functionality into its website. With the update, customers can look up housing listings in the community – which has been adding value to local Realtors.

Behind all the Web updates is a motivation by the bank to encourage engagement to deepen digital relationships, and then, to sell when appropriate.

"That's the nirvana," said Ben Wallace, the executive vice president of operations and technology at Orrstown Bank.

— Mary Wisniewski

Frandsen Financial Gets Up to Speed with Same-Day Payments Frandsen Financial Gets Up to Speed with Same-Day Payments Frandsen Financial took the industry's plan to allow faster payments as a call to action. It invested in automation software, which allowed employees previously bogged down with manual tasks to focus on more meaningful duties. (Get the full story here or see below.)

While same-day payments might still be a ways away, Frandsen Financial in Arden Hills, Minn., is ready.

When the banking industry last year adopted a plan to allow same-day payments, Frandsen executives knew they were in trouble – the bank could barely keeping up with the existing payments framework. Balancing ACH payments was a cumbersome, time-consuming process. Bank employees spent almost two hours each day manually downloading and copying large batches of files.

The process was slow and "very much prone to error," said Dave Buggeln, director of information systems at the $1.5 billion-asset company.

Executives decided they needed a faster, more efficient method to keep up with "where the payments industry was going," Buggeln said. So it invested in automation software.

The bank chose SMA OpCon, a program produced by SMA Solutions in Kingwood, Texas. The software automatically processes ACH payments and loads files to the bank's core system.

Since installing the program in October, the bank's IT department has shifted its focus away from "mundane, repeatable" tasks. Employees who once spent their days downloading and copying files now focus, instead, on monitoring ACH payments for problems.

"Along with faster payments, there's a lot more risk," Buggeln said.

The bank has not cut its IT staff since installing the automation software — which cost the bank less than the salary of a full-time employee, according to Buggeln.

The ACH project was part of a broader initiative at Frandsden to organize and automate the processes that power the bank's computer systems.

Like most IT departments, Buggeln and his team are responsible for "hundreds, if not thousands" of computer scripts, written in several different languages, located on a number of different servers.

Many of the commands also run on different schedules. For instance, some processes run when the Fed is closed, while others require the Fed to be open.

"Running our enterprise was becoming unmanageable," Buggeln said.

SMA OpCon allows the bank to monitor most of those processes on a centralized dashboard. When an error occurs, Buggeln and his staff can quickly diagnose and troubleshoot the problem.

Since installing the software, Frandsen has automated a variety of tasks, including regularly scheduled SQL database commands and core systems updates.

Overall, the automation projects have required bank executives to adopt a new attitude toward technology, Buggeln said.

"There's a certain kind of courage" that comes along with adopting automation, he said. After doing a process manually — and the same way — for several years, it can be hard to switch gears.

"There's an element of fear in letting go of that control," Buggeln said. "But the proof is in the pudding."

— Kristin Broughton

Skipping New Servers, Colo. Bank Goes Big in the Cloud Skipping New Servers, Colo. Bank Goes Big in the Cloud Rather than replace aging servers and add an onsite backup system, The Eastern Colorado Bank moved its IT infrastructure to the cloud. While some bankers fear outsourcing such systems, the community bank has had a hosted core for several years. (Get the full story here or see below.)

The Eastern Colorado Bank in Cheyenne Wells, Colo., has been dealing in the cloud for years, but an aging IT infrastructure pushed it to further outsource its business.

The $350 million-asset bank recently moved much of its infrastructure onto CSI's cloud solution, including its file, Citrix, print and Exchange servers as part of a business continuity plan.

The decision to move various operations to the cloud can be difficult for some bankers, as security and other concerns dominate the conversation. Executives at Eastern Colorado, however, didn't have that problem — the bank's core system, Precision by Fiserv, has been hosted for several years, said Megan Harmon, the bank's chief operating officer.

But the bank did have to wait until its existing servers were ready to be retired.

"We've long been a bank that is comfortable with outsourcing things we can't do better," Harmon said. "But once you purchase a server you use it until it dies."

The decision to move servers to the cloud involved more than just replacing one system — it involved two systems, actually. Given the rise of digital banking, and the subsequent expectations of customers for the bank to always be virtually "open," the bank had started looking at backup systems in the case of an outage or a natural disaster. Tornadoes, for instance, are not uncommon on the eastern plains of Colorado.

"We were talking about building an entire redundant system," Harmon said. "But we thought, 'Before we buy double, why don't we consider outsourcing?' … We didn't give up anything in the trade."

The company already had a relationship with CSI — the vendor provided managed services for the bank.

Harmon said the outsourcing means the branches no longer have to worry if one of the other branches goes down. Additionally, the move has allowed its one and a half IT staffers to focus on other projects, rather than spending all their energy on maintaining routers and switches.

"Now we get to talk about products, services and acquisitions; we get to be more strategic," Harmon said, "rather than spending our days focusing task-list items."

— Robert Barba

Getting Employees Comfortable with Change Key to IT Overhaul iStock Getting Employees Comfortable with Change Key to IT Overhaul Bank of Missouri knew that using new technology was important in making its business processes more efficient. But its IT team also knew that it had to get buy-in from the employees actually completing the steps as well to see real results. (Get the full story here or see below.)

Bank of Missouri knew it wasn't just battling inefficiencies with its recent IT project — it was also waging a war against complacency.

Two years ago, the Perryville, Mo., company's chief executive, R. David Crader, asked the information technology department for the one initiative it would like to complete. With the company's rapid growth — its assets have grown by roughly 50% and branches have doubled in the last six years — a way to save time and reduce errors in its business processes was at the top of the division's wish list.

It embarked on a project to simplify how staff completes a variety of tasks ranging from onboarding new employees to handling certain customer requests. The $1.2 billion-asset company selected Jack Henry's jhaEnterprise Workflow to automate both internal and customer-facing multistep processes.

"This is a big focus for us going forward," said Christopher Congiardo, systems analyst manager at Bank of Missouri. "A lot of time has been spent developing and analyzing how we free up our own time. What are the processes that tie us up?"

Utilizing technology was just one piece of the initiative, Congiardo said. He also needed to get the bank's employees on board, since they would be the ones actually completing the various tasks he was looking to make more efficient.

The bank created a focus group of various division leaders to discuss the need for the improvements and the importance of consistency. The group was dubbed The Hopper Project in honor of Grace Hopper, noted computer scientist and rear admiral in the U.S. Navy. In the 1970s Hopper called "We've always done it this way" the most dangerous phrase in language.

"The buy-in was very critical," Congiardo said. "We wanted to create a culture of questioning processes and asking, 'Why are we doing things this way?' "

Most employees were receptive once they understood why the changes were being made and how it would make their jobs easier, Congiardo said.

Bank of Missouri has improved almost a dozen processes through its initiative so far, including automating parts of the processing of requests from customers for refunds on deposit fees. That was a particularly error-prone process, as employees were supposed to enter the branch where the account was opened in the request, but they often listed the branch where the request was made.

Now staff members just enter the account number and the correct branch is automatically identified. The bank estimates that this bringing automation to this process has saved the bank roughly 54 hours each month, equaling about $1,000 in savings a month.

The bank plans to review another 10 to 15 processes this year.

"When you get a new workflow, it is really just the first version and you will revisit that time and time again," Congiardo said. "Some of it is just people leveraging the [Jack Henry] product more."

— Jackie Stewart

Community Banker Leaves Sons a Tech Legacy, Not Legacy Tech Community Banker Leaves Sons a Tech Legacy, Not Legacy Tech Bank of Prairie Village in Kansas went through a core conversion last year. Its chairman hopes that his sons, who are set to take over the bank eventually, won't be afraid to embrace new technology since they've experienced the scariest of all bank IT projects. (Get the full story here or see below.)

Dan Bolen, the chairman of Bank of Prairie Village in Kansas, can boast about something increasingly rare at community banks these days: children prepared to carry on the family business.

While some bankers may envy the 55-year-old Bolen, he has to think about the future of his bank in a completely different way than a banker who knows he'll likely sell his bank in the next decade or so. Bolen has to make sure the $106 million-asset bank is well positioned to thrive with the next generation and that his sons, Patrick, 28, and William, 26, will not be afraid to embrace technology and change as they age.

So last year, the bank embarked on the most daring of IT projects — it replaced a core system that had been in place since at least the 1980s with the BancPac core system by FIS.

Bolen's motivations for the conversion, which happened in November, were partly practical, partly philosophical.

"I have to worry about getting the bank from me on to my boys and ensure that it is going to remain viable," Bolen said in an interview. "And by dealing with these issues, my hope is that they'll maintain the institutional knowledge and mindset that you can't be afraid to do something like this."

Before deciding to replace the core, Bolen had considered building another branch. Given declining branch traffic, though, Bolen thought he should at least consider investing the money in technology.

"Picking out carpet samples and looking at architectural plans might have been more fun, but the ability to offer top-notch cyber services is going to separate the winners from the losers," Bolen said. "So I spent that time looking at mapping and considering conversions."

In picking a new core, Bolen said he met with five different vendors. FIS was the largest, he said. That was a little concerning — he worried that FIS would see his bank as small potatoes.

"I thought they were going to expect horse hitches," he said. "But they sent a senior guy who told us, 'With your size and new technology, you could have a lot of fun.' "

Bank technology experts often liken core conversions to a person getting a heart and lung transplant while running a marathon, but Bolen compared it to Y2K — while massive tech failures were certainly possible, it went rather smoothly.

In addition to the BancPac core, Bank of Prairie Village opted for a suite of digital banking services, item processing, teller services and various regulatory and fraud management tools. His favorite is mobile deposits.

"I've always felt like we were the kid, the runt," Bolen said. "But this is like getting a gold-plated six-shooter. Bring it on."

— Robert Barba

The banking industry is grappling with a quickly changing technology environment, and that is particularly true for community banks given their fewer resources. Still, several are looking for ways to provide their customers with cutting-edge digital products, overhauling their antiquated systems and using technology to strip out costs and find better uses for their tech teams. The following are ten examples of community banks that have made technology a priority.

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