When former JPMorgan Chase IT exec Ben Wallace joined Orrstown Bank in March to help rebuild the Pennsylvania bank's technology, he quickly spotted his starting points: outdated and inconsistent phone systems and desktop software that were causing daily frustrations. The behind-the-scenes technology running at the Orrstown Financial Services Inc. (ORRF) unit required a facelift.

And it's been getting one — starting with an operations overhaul.

"You first have to do the block-and-tackling to ensure you have the foundation built," Wallace, executive vice president of operations and technology, tells Bank Technology News. "Then you can leverage for the fun and sexy features."

The bank, which has about $1.2 billion in assets, plans to aggressively accomplish some of both by yearend.

Its 2013 IT projects include: migrating its core processing platform, updating employee-facing software and whipping up plans to redesign its digital channels. Orrstown has been making these investments to modernize the bank and position it for growth.

Orrstown already excelled at customer service, which Wallace says provides a solid foundation. "There are a tremendous amount of good things Orrstown does every day," Wallace says. "My job is to help package and facilitate through technology and get out of the way to let our people do the rest."

To execute on the software surgery, the bank has shored up its IT team from 13 to 21 over the last few months. "It's a significant investment for a bank our size and reflects the board's understanding of how important technology is to Orrstown's future," says Wallace.

Some of the new hires came with Wallace from JPMorgan. "These guys are excited," he says. "They can touch more of the business."

Along with investing in new IT employees, Orrstown's executive team has been revamped over the last 12 months. David Keim joined as an executive vice president and chief risk officer; David Boyle was hired as executive vice president and chief financial officer in August; and Jeffrey Siebert was brought on as an executive vice president and chief operating officer, also in August. The personnel changes come amid a regulator's order for the bank to strengthen its credit risk management practices, among other things.

Weaving new personnel into an existing culture is a challenge for any company looking to shake up the way business gets done. Orrstown, which employs 350, is no exception. "It's an interesting journey," says Wallace. "The key, which is not specific to technology, is to have transparent and open communication. It is important that everyone on the team is part of this effort."

Finding the right balance of aggressive delivery and sound execution also remains top of mind. "It's our challenge to bring the right mix of new ideas and a sense of urgency typically found in banks serving several millions of customers," he says.

The IT team is working on several project to equip employees with better software by December's end. The bank is moving to Office 365, a cloud-based email service from Microsoft, to arm employees with consistent productivity tools. The project is expected to be completed in September. Orrstown also inked a contract to migrate its core processing platform to software from Jack Henry, with a December completion date expected.

While the Jack Henry deal is the bank's biggest infrastructure project, it's not the bank's biggest task lying ahead. Orrstown plans to revamp its service channels, including its IVR and digital channels, as well as layer in additional capabilities like video banking. The bank internally refers to these internal and external service delivery efforts as the "Open Project," which is meant to describe how customers will interact with it.

By advancing the bank's technology, Orrstown aims to increase its growth prospects by the start of next year — an initiative the bank identifies as critical. Banks nationwide are challenged to make profits in a low interest and heavily regulated environment. "It may be very difficult to run an efficient bank at our size given the depth of services and offerings we want to provide our customers," says Wallace.

If all goes as planned, come yearend, consumers and employees alike will experience a much more modern Orrstown. "I don't want to be an incremental bank," Wallace says. "When you buy a car, you get 80 new things — you don't get just one."