Editor's Note: This article is part of a series of profiles of Bank Technology News' 2015 Digital Bankers of the Year.
Tom Ormseth is leading community banks in the shift to digital innovation.
He is the senior vice president of Wintrust Financial, a $20 billion financial services holding company with 15 banking subsidiaries. All of them have an integrated digital banking and online payments offering through branded apps on tablets and mobile.
"Especially for our size, we're definitely at the leading edge of what's going on," he said.
The company strives to surpass large financial institutions in the digital game, not merely achieve parity. So far, it has demonstrated it can, through initiatives like its Cardless Cash, real-time money movement and mobile-first features.
But the name of the game for Wintrust is still customer experience. Technology is just another of the company's channels, but it isn't there to replace any of them. It offers mobile-first features, but it isn't eliminating any branches.
"There are the Chases of the world, the B of As, the Wells that have deeper pockets," Ormseth said. "Ours isn't the tech play. We have tech with customer service."
He called digital banking an "absolute necessity" for any bank in 2015, regardless of its size, and said basic mobile banking is expected.
"We want our customers to still be engaged with us," he added.
Ormseth has been with Wintrust for nine years and led the company as senior vice president for the last seven. It began its digital push about two years ago, in response to feedback from customer surveys. Cardless Cash was created as an early step in the seemingly far-off shift toward digital wallets.
"We thought digital wallets would become relevant sometime," he said. "We didn't think it was going to be right away."
Cardless Cash is a service that the company introduced in December. It allows customers to withdraw cash from ATMs using their mobile banking app and is available at more than 175 ATMs in Chicago and southern Wisconsin, to more than 105,000 customers.
The company was the first in the U.S. to provide this kind of service. Ormseth said that while fraud prevention was an important factor in its design, Wintrust saw the opportunity for its clients just as clearly.
"If we can get 20% or 30% of our customer base using [Cardless Cash], we think there's a benefit to the businesses in our communities to start to accept a mobile wallet and provide offers and incentives for customers to come in," he said. "If I can show I have 30,000 customers that use this, I think it's a pretty attractive model for businesses that couldn't necessarily afford to get into it, like Apple or those with deeper pockets."
The company finished rolling out its Cardless Cash ATMs in February. Ormseth said it expects to see mobile wallets gain traction in the next 18 months. Now the company is focusing on getting its employees excited about mobile, which it's doing with its Digital Expert initiative.
It has also launched a pilot program that provides real-time, peer-to-peer money movement. It is committed to making its mobile banking apps completely accessible by all of its customers' preferred devices.
The response by customers has been very positive, and client retention is Ormseth's best measure of success.
"We don't necessarily look at customer profitability the way the big banks do," he said. "We want to represent our communities."