A community bank in eastern Tennessee is looking to differentiate itself with a blog that spotlights its customers.
Sevier County Bank in Sevierville has created www.scbstories.com to highlight some of the positive experiences its clients have had with the bank. Customers can contribute their own stories directly to the site.
Executives and directors of the $305 million-asset bank came up with the idea last year during strategic planning sessions, Chief Executive Matthew Converse says. The bank, which is operating under regulatory orders as it fixes credit problems, has been looking at ways to get back out on its front foot.
"In May we ran an internal campaign to collect stories" about clients, Converse says. "We ended up with 50 entries. As I read through them I was amazed because there was so much heart and long-term loyalty in there."
One entry tells the story of "Agnes," an elderly depositor who relied on the bank so much that she began asking employees to help her book her airline flights. Another story discusses a customer who continued to bank at Sevier County even after she moved 20 miles away from the closest branch.
The bank, located in the Great Smoky Mountains, wants to keep the focus on clients, which is one reason it does not promote products and services on the site. "I hope it never becomes a product pitch," adds Converse, who joined the bank two years ago in an effort to help salvage the struggling institution. "Over time, I want this to be driven more from outside sources."
Sevier County is trying to stand out from other community banks that remain shy about creative uses of the Internet.
As for the bank's financial performance, it is slowly making headway. The bank lost $932,000 in the first half of the year, compared with a $1.1 million loss in the first half of last year. Nonperforming assets were 4% of total assets at June 30, an improvement from nearly 16% at the end of 2011.
"We still have our fair share of problems, but we're improving every day," Converse says.