Currie State Bank


Neither technology nor regulations slow Currie State Bank’s juggernaut competitiveness

By Kathryn Jackson Fallon

Currie State Bank
Currie, Minn.
2013 ROA: 1.41 percent
2013 ROE: 16.57 percent
Assets: $62 million
Retail locations: One
Employees: 11

If you’re going to use technology to compete against small but scrappy Currie State Bank you better put up your dukes.

Significant technology upgrades have been taking place at the $62 million-asset community bank serving rural Currie, Minn., says CEO and Cashier Doug Hansen. On the retail service side, the bank recently launched a smartphone banking app that gives its customers mobile remote check deposit capabilities. Before that, on the operations side, it also changed its hardware and software systems to convert to cloud computing, with the goal of capturing long-term operational efficiencies and savings (and the change has already freed the bank from replacing the IT person it lost last year).

“New technology … eliminates the need for more branches, reduces overhead for the bank and helps obtain and retain customers that might not live in our area but want to bank with us,” Hanson says.

But Currie State Bank has been a consistent industry top performer even before its technology changes. Hansen attributes the bank’s top performance again last year to strong loan demand in its marketplace as well as maintaining healthy net-interest margins and high-quality customer service. The bank’s average loan-to-deposit ratio stands at 110 percent—“that doesn’t even count the loans that we purchase paid-out or that we sell.”

The town of Currie in southwest Minnesota has a population of about 200, where most of the bank’s customers raise corn and soybeans, and about one-quarter raise livestock. About two-thirds of the bank’s loans are in either agriculture production or real estate. “We are very proud of the fact that we also provide the small community and area with consumer lending, one-to-four family residential or real estate lending that a lot of little banks don’t do anymore because of all the [regulatory] rule changes,” Hansen says.

Currie State Bank’s lending output hasn’t come easy this past year, however. Hansen says the bank’s staff of 11 people has worked hard to adapt to the many regulatory changes, mostly on the byzantine mortgage rules released by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “Lately it’s settled down and we’ve been able to handle it and, consequently, in the last few years the performance has also reflected that.”

But Hansen also says he is resolved to have Currie State Bank deal with the new and additional paperwork. “There’s not much you can do because it’s the regulators, and you have to play with the cards you’re dealt.”

On the retail side, Currie State Bank’s mobile banking app allows the bank’s customers to simply take a picture of checks with their smartphones and tap a few keys to send the deposits flying into their accounts. Hanson says Currie State Bank is one of the few banks in the area that offers mobile deposits. For rural areas where people can live 50 miles away from the bank, this is a big deal, he says. Feedback has been very positive. The app is easy to use and is proving to be a big draw. On the backroom operational side, the bank underwent a core system overhaul to operate in the cloud to reduce its software and hardware costs.

While the smartphone app and the cloud-computing conversion are a big step for Currie State Bank, they inevitably won’t be the last, Hansen says. “There is always something to do to remain competitive. We’re always looking at new ways to service our customers and to provide them the best experience possible.”

Kathryn Jackson Fallon is a writer in New York.