PriorityOne Bank


Technology helps drive PriortyOne Bank’s top service and performance

By Vanessa Drucker

PriorityOne Bank
Magee, Miss.
2013 ROA: 1.77 percent
Assets: $550 million
Retail locations: 12
Employees: 170

One and one sometimes do make three. When technology adds efficiency to a community bank’s operations, and simultaneously enhances its customers’ experience, that’s an elegant solution on two fronts.

When Robert Barnes became president and CEO of Priority Bank in Magee, Miss., in 2011, he was determined to make the $550 million-asset community bank more competitive in a market served by 27 other banks, all with 103 branch offices. Barnes, a 32-year veteran employee at the bank, focused as CEO first on streamlining its existing services, by paring seven varieties of consumer checking and consumer savings accounts down to four types.

Next, Internet upgrades that enabled mobile remote deposit capture as well as online transactions like bill paying, document storage and retrieval were his next improvement projects. Those upgrades allowed the bank’s customers to transact business from anywhere, outside the local footprint. “Meanwhile, we can use our staff to better serve our customers,” Barnes notes.

Remote services promote retention, if customers move to distant locations—in Minnesota, New York, California, Florida, Texas and other states. Although far away from PriorityOne’s core market, customers in those other states remain loyal to the bank’s services, being able to “carry the bank with them in their pockets on a mobile phone,” Barnes says.

Rival banks may offer equivalent mobile access, but PriorityOne’s key ingredient is superior personal service. “We offer big-bank sophistication with small-town values,” Barnes explains. He means in part a real human to resolve problems quickly, rather than a voicemail menu.

It took about eight months from inception to roll out the mobile banking program, including extensive testing for functionality, safety and security. Since the rollout, PriorityOne averages about 100 new mobile banking registrations per month and has seen a steady increase to around 50,000 mobile logins per month.

At PriorityOne, every employee, from officers and board members to staff, eats their own cooking. The bank asks its staffers to try its products and services, both to familiarize themselves from the user’s perspective and to anticipate and address any roadblocks. Barnes himself routinely checks his own bank account every morning on his mobile device before starting his own workday.

An electronic pipeline documentation program, another improvement program under Barnes, provides another win-win initiative, both for satisfying customers proactively and soliciting new prospects more effectively. For years before, the bank’s employees had relied on their memories or Post-It notes to record conversations with current and prospective customers. In partnership with Performance Delta, the bank introduced the pipeline referral program, which documents the discussion, the parties, the product being considered, the follow up and the likelihood of a successful sale. The system includes email alerts to employees, such as reminders of certificates of deposits coming due.

From PriorityOne’s side, the pipeline connects product referrals to the appropriate department, and the system can reassign a business record should an employee leave or retire. Right now, potential account prospects total $25 million to $30 million, with $30 million to $35 million for loans. Barnes describes how, “customers love it, because they can depend on us to call them, not the other way around.”

Vanessa Drucker is a writer in New York.