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Madalyn Laske
Madalyn Laske

Before joining The Copper River Group Madalyn worked for several media outlets in the Fargo-Moorhead area including the Fargo Forum, Spotlight Media and Radio FM Media. She has worked for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks for the past nine summers as the Music-Media Operator.

Tips on Keeping Your Community Bank or Credit Union Competitive

We interviewed Pete Anderson, President and CEO of KodaBank, on his expertise to keeping his community financial institution growing and succeeding.

It’s 1981. You turn on the TV and for the first time EVER, MTV premiered with the words: “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll” before “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles began to play, and society’s relationship with music changed forever. (By the way, that was the first and last time a music video actually played on MTV.)

Maybe you went to the movie theater and paid $2.75 to see Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark on its opening day.

Perhaps the commotion surrounding Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s wedding kept your attention.

If you were Pete Anderson, you walked into your first day as a bank teller in Drayton, ND.

“When I first started here,” Anderson said, “We didn’t have a computer in the bank. At the time there was still key punch machines and all of that kind of good stuff.”

In time, the “good stuff” became dated. But, Anderson, President and CEO of KodaBank, has always had his eyes up toward the future. Anderson understands the constant progressive change in technology, and strives to keep KodaBank competitive in the market. 

“You have to be forward thinking, otherwise you’re almost out of business,” Anderson said. “If you are reacting now-a-days, I don’t care what business you’re in, you’re probably not going to make it.”

Anderson is a good example for community bankers today. Empowering young talent, acknowledging the importance of innovation and technology, and accentuating what’s already working combine to lead the way for KodaBank’s success. Let’s take a look at what’s effective for them so you can apply some tactics to your institution.

Empowering the Young Bloods

Picture the life of a 20-something-year-old today. They go from watching Netflix on their television, turn off the device, login to the Netflix app on their smart phone and, boom! Netflix picks up right where they left off. Millennials track their workout on their watch, and when they get home, click! They login and check the details of that same workout on their tablet. They press an “Amazon dash button” for laundry detergent and, presto! In two days they have Tide show up at their apartment.

Now, that same young adult is recruited to come work for a small institution. He or she is prompted to login not once, not twice, but countless times into the same program. They change customer information in the core, but it’s not changed online. They walk through the branch and hear the sound of a fax machine. (Mind you, they may have never heard that sound outside of a movie before!)

Will he or she want to work for that institution? Will he or she believe that job will foster their career path?

An industry pain point today is attracting and retaining talent. While sometimes difficult to find ambitious young people to move to a small town in North Dakota, Anderson feels lucky to have the staff he does behind him in order to make some of those technology leaps.

“I think if I didn’t have some (of those young employees), I think the change in technology probably would scare me,” Anderson said. “It helps me to have some younger blood in here that gives me some feedback. It’s up to me to get the best deal that I can for them, I’m not doing it for me.”

Anderson’s vision propelled him to where he is today. He knows that if he embraces new ideas moving forward, the bank will also continue to move forward. Empowering staff and valuing opinions are key pillars in Anderson’s decision making, daily.

He often looks to his younger employees while making decisions because those decisions will impact them for years to come. He knows this first-hand because he was also afforded that respect at a young age. In turn, hopefully the younger employees will stick around, too.

“One thing that I was given the benefit of when I started was the opportunity to be involved with some of the decision making right away, and that keeps your interest up,” Anderson said. “The more they have say, the more skin in the game they have, and decisions will come back on them. I think technology has enabled me to see that a little bit more as the next generation is coming up.”

Attracting and retaining talent go hand-in-hand with staying on top of technological advances. You can’t have one without the other, and you can’t continue to grow successfully if you sustain what has always been done.

Keeping Up with Expectations

Technology we once saw as fiction is now becoming a reality. It truly is a sci-fi world, we’re just trying to navigate through it.

What does Anderson say the biggest change in the industry has been over his career?

“Without a doubt technology,” he said.

What does he think the biggest change going forward will be?

“Technology,” Anderson said.

As obvious and redundant to some as that could seem, some community financial institutions are scared to make the change and adapt. Or, don’t know where to start.

A good place to start, is to think about what you look for as a consumer. Where does your customer begin their engagement with you? Online of course! Amazon has changed the consumer’s expectations almost overnight. Your customer doesn’t understand why they have two different logins for mobile banking and online banking, and they certainly don’t understand why the two aren’t integrated. Your customer doesn’t understand why opening an account in the branch takes 45 minutes, but they could apply online in under 10 minutes at a different institution if they wanted to.

Keeping up with expectations is a big factor to remaining successful.

“If you don’t keep up with technology it’ll put you out of business,” Anderson said.

Find Out What Works and Do It Some More

As different as technology and society is today from 1981, many things are also still the same. We still tune in to watch celebrities perform, we still head down to the movie theater and pay (an inflated) dollar amount to watch our favorite films, and the royal family still has our hearts.

The constant in KodaBank’s success has been customer service.

“Technology is obviously an issue and you’ve got to stay somewhat abreast to it,” Anderson said. “But, (what’s important is) customer service. You’ve got to get your work done. You’ve got to put enough time in to stay on top of things and it’s not that hard. It sounds crazy and I think about this in every business you have to be able to look ahead and you have to be able to anticipate. Anticipation is key, and you have to take care of the customers. Once you lose that reputation, good luck getting it back.”

While the importance of technology is growing day-by-day, customer service sets community financial institutions apart. Anderson harps on cutting the time between receiving issues and solving it.

“Service sets us apart,” Anderson said. “I know that’s an easy one-word answer, but it is what it is. If someone has a question, I don’t want it to be a two-week, three-week, four-week process (to resolve). Hopefully they will get an answer back within a day and sooner if possible. Customer service is key.”

With the need-it-now phenomenon sweeping society, the “Universal Banker” concept has emerged. How do community financial institutions continue to keep the customer service bar high? How do you find an employee who can do it all?

As is true with many small institutions, employees are called to wear many hats and have been for decades. So, to Anderson, the universal banker idea is not a new one.

“When I think about that, I consider myself a universal banker because the bottom line is, I could make up the C.D. or open up an account,” Anderson said. “I almost consider some of these small-town bankers who have been here for so long, a universal banker. Whereas you get into big banks, they don’t know other processes than in the department of where they are at.”

When choosing a technology vendor, customer service remains a constant as well. Just as good customer service is important for his staff to exercise, every vendor KodaBank works with needs to uphold those same values.

“More than anything it’s for my employees to be able to call (the vendor) up so they can help them,” Anderson said. “So yes, I will give technology its due, but customer service is key. So I will pay more to have good customer service.”

 

It’s 2018. You verbally tell your television screen to turn on and up pops YouTube with the “Video Killed the Radio Star” music video streaming.

Maybe you open Hulu and click play on Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Perhaps you saw the most recent Prince Harry and Meghan Markle pregnancy update on Instagram.

If you are Pete Anderson, you continue to lay a foundation for your lifelong bank. In order to grow your institution into the future past your retirement, there is no time like the present to think about where your institution is at and where it’s headed.

Do you have the correct talent filling the necessary positions? Do you have the best technology to lift your institution to the next level in order to remain consistent with your customers and members expectations? Are you maintaining a customer service level to retain your current customers but also to open up new accounts?

“(You ask yourself), what do you think is best going to prepare (the bank) for the next 20 years?” Anderson said. “It’s up to me to get the best deal I can. I’m not doing it for me.”

Madalyn Laske
Madalyn Laske

Before joining The Copper River Group Madalyn worked for several media outlets in the Fargo-Moorhead area including the Fargo Forum, Spotlight Media and Radio FM Media. She has worked for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks for the past nine summers as the Music-Media Operator.

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The Copper River Group is a financial consulting firm that believes in the benefits technological advancement has for streamlining business.

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