Citizens Bank of Edmond Thrives as a 'Model' Community Bank

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Citizens Bank of Edmond may be small, but it has its own gravitational pull.

Under the stewardship of President and Chief Executive Jill Castilla, the $251 million-asset Citizens has attracted national attention for its interactive video kiosks, YouTube musical parodies and innovative "cash mobs" in which bank employees descend en masse on local businesses with money to spend. Now the Edmond, Okla., bank has swept a talented young member of the community banking industry's Washington, D.C., trade group into its orbit.

"They're basically the model community bank," says Citizens' senior marketing officer Ann Chen, who left her post as director of social media engagement at the Independent Community Bankers of America to join Citizens this summer. Having observed Citizens' tech-forward approach to local banking from afar, Chen says she was eager to get in on the action.

As one of six women on Citizens' seven-person senior management team, Chen says she sees her more experienced colleagues as role models. Citizens also has a plethora of women at the vice president and assistant vice president levels. "Witnessing all these amazing women is really inspiring," says Chen, 28. "I'm probably one of the younger ones here, and I can see that there is a way you can be really good at what you do while being family focused."

Among Chen's new responsibilities will be taking charge of the bank's popular Heard on Hurd program, a monthly street festival in downtown Edmond. The festival, which features pop-up shops, live local bands and food trucks peddling deep-fried egg rolls and savory s'mores, has become a staple of the social scene in the area since its debut last year. It drew a record crowd of 16,000 in July, generating an estimated $400,000 in economic activity.

The 114-year-old bank was inspired to launch Heard on Hurd after observing the success of a larger street festival it sponsors in Oklahoma City. The events are a natural extension of Citizens' mission to reenergize its 85,000-person suburb, according to Castilla.

"We've had businesses that were on the brink of not surviving tell us that because of Heard on Hurd, they've had a resurgence and were able to carry on," Castilla says.

While Citizens spends roughly $8,500 on the festival each month, the bank keeps a low profile at the event, limiting its branding to a few banners and small print on festival T-shirts. "We don't try to open accounts that night or be in your face with products and services," Castilla says. "We want to keep it organic, like something you would have expected to happen 50 or 60 years ago."

Bank employees volunteer to work the festival from 2 p.m. to midnight, setting up tents, checking in on food trucks and helping the bands unload equipment. Two employees even took it upon themselves to dress up as Anna and Elsa from the popular Disney animated film "Frozen" at the July event, making the rounds to take photos with eager young fans.

Heard on Hurd is only one piece of Citizens' broader efforts to serve as a hub for its community. The bank also is expanding into an adjacent building, a former jewelry store with an original tin ceiling. Castilla says she wants the new space to feel welcoming, with an open floor plan, a mini café where customers can sip coffee and use free wifi, and a floor-to-ceiling monthly calendar that passersby can consult to keep track of the goings-on about town.

Headquarters:
Edmond, Okla.

2014 Financial Highlights:
Assets: $251 million
ROE: 13.27%
ROA: 1.27%

Female representation among corporate officers: 68%

Female representation on operating committee: 67%

The Team: Amy Bailey, Chelsea Bradshaw, Jill Castilla, Ann Chen, Cathy Donald, Rachael Fedor, Debbie Hamm, Carrie Harris, Gail Heierding, Cynthia Hendershot, Bridget Jaime, Kinzie Jerman, Audrey Stoner, Meghan Thomas, Lisa Trent, Diana Trumbly, Aimee Yarbrough

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