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Community Banker Leaves Sons a Tech Legacy, Not Legacy Tech

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."

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