The Women to Watch: No. 19, First State Bank of St. Charles's Luanne Cundiff

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President and CEO, First State Bank of St. Charles

Innovation in banking typically means developing or investing in some cutting-edge technology that will appeal to younger, tech-savvy customers. But to Luanne Cundiff, the president and CEO at First State Bank of St. Charles in Missouri, it can also mean finding new ways to meet the needs of senior citizens who aren't all that interested in sending a payment via mobile device or completing a loan application online.

With life expectancies increasing and more and more seniors living with some form of dementia, Cundiff has been devoting significant resources to helping her $365 million-asset bank better serve this aging population.

Its "dementia-friendly" initiative, launched last year at the suggestion of an employee who was seeing signs of dementia in aging customers, is designed to help seniors better understand their financial situations and how to avoid being scammed by acquaintances or even family members. The bank now requires all employees to complete dementia-friendly training, and branch procedures, products and employee practices have all been updated to support and protect these customers.

"Our program is a work in progress, but our employees are now more mindful of the needs of these customers," Cundiff said. "The more we can do for them, the better off they will be and our employees can feel good about the help we provide."

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Of course, it's also important for banks to be innovating in the more traditional sense or else they risk being left behind, Cundiff said.

First State Bank last year rolled out a digital mortgage application system that lets borrowers initiate the application process online, and that effort has helped to reduce closing times by an average of six days.

It is also among the community bank members of the Zelle person-to-person payments network and Cundiff herself devotes significant time and energy to helping other community bankers understand the importance of real-time payments.

"In this digital age, customers expect immediate fulfillment of their banking needs," said Cundiff, who serves on The Clearing House's real-time payment advisory committee and on the boards of the American Bankers Association and the Missouri Bankers Association. "Community banks must advance their current operational systems and adopt and implement real time payment strategies to remain relevant."

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Community banking Luanne Cundiff Women in Banking