For Coppermark Bank in Oklahoma City, as for many U.S. banks, 2009 has been a rebuilding year, and it has fallen on senior executive vice president and chief operating officer Jacque Fiegel to lead efforts to grow deposits, improve IT systems, and generally boost customer confidence.
The renewed industry-wide emphasis on retail deposits led to the February launch of a new free high-interest checking product, which rapidly brought in $4 million in new money. As of June 30, retail deposits were up $90 million, or 29 percent, from the same period a year earlier, and the bank's loan-to-deposit ratio has fallen to 95 percent, from 100 percent a year earlier.
Fiegel's team has also introduced a rewards program to encourage online banking, and the result has been a 13 percent increase in the number of households using online bill pay, year over year. "This slow time has allowed us to focus a lot on development," says Fiegel.
But Fiegel, a 30-year-plus veteran of the now $1.1 billion-asset bank, has not just focused on the consumer side of the house. After the collapse of Lehman Brothers., she helped the bank turn what could have been a financial and reputational nightmare into an opportunity to strengthen ties with corporate customers. One of the sweep investment account alternatives that Coppermark has offered for years hit a snag when regulators temporarily halted purchases and redemptions. "Suddenly those funds became frozen," Fiegel explains, "and customers could no longer sweep money in, or access their funds." So the bank made the decision to fund redemption requests on the frozen funds - in essence, fronting customers the money they needed. The bank could have been on the hook for $25 million, but according to Fiegel, it was a worthwhile cost of doing business that helped build business customers' respect. Plus, she says, "It was the right thing to do."
Like most banks, Coppermark is not delivering the same returns on assets and equity it did two or three years ago, when its ROE was approaching 20 percent, but prudent lending and strong deposit growth have helped it maintain ratios that are significantly above those of its peers. Thomas Legan, Coppermark's president and CEO, gives much of the credit to Fiegel.
"Her management effectiveness is a major factor in Coppermark Bank being a high performance institution year after year," he says.