Tech Is King


By Jack Hartings, Chairman of ICBA

Our customers love technology. At least, that’s what I’ve found to be true at The Peoples Bank Co. in Coldwater, Ohio. Like many of you, I’m amazed at where technology has taken our business, and I look forward to seeing where it continues to take us. Without a doubt, technology has the ability to catapult our business to the next level and deepen our customer relationships.

Community banks have a huge advantage in the technology space. We are the total package. We are relationship lenders that do everything in our power to best serve our customers and our communities. Our customers love the fact that we look out for their best interests and the interests of our community. It’s this relationship banking experience and trust that community bank customers have come to expect and appreciate. So, when you take this strong foundation of trust, service and relationships, and add it in with powerful, efficient and 24-hour a day/seven days a week technology—something that people love—you have a winning equation and something that customers will undoubtedly treasure and respond to for years to come.

All of this talk of technology takes me back to 2013 when The Peoples Bank launched its mobile banking service. As a community banker, my top concern was how our customers would respond to it. Would they have questions? Would they use it? Would my more senior customers need assistance with understanding and using it?

With these worries circling in my mind, I kept asking our staff to see if anyone had called in with questions about our new mobile banking service. One day passed, no; three days passed, no; two weeks passed, no. I was thinking, “Well, if we aren’t getting questions, maybe customers aren’t interested or just aren’t taking advantage of it.” So, we checked the numbers and it turned out that there were more than 250 customers using the product in the first month, and today we have more than 1,400 mobile banking users.

Wow—not only were our customers interested in the product and using it, but they didn’t have any questions. They love technology and knew how to leverage it!

I tell you this story because, at first, I was a bit skeptical. I cling to the traditional values of community banking but also realize that the future is coming and technology is part of that future. Community bank customers have become accustomed to the best possible products and customer service, and it’s up to us to keep that tradition going while leveraging the benefits that technology has to offer. Our customers expect these services from us.

Now is the time to embrace what technological innovation has to offer and use it as a tool for continuing to make the community bank experience the best it can be. Whether it’s at the branch, online or via a smartphone app, the community bank experience should not be limited to branch hours. Technology is another way to reach our customers. It’s that simple.

Jack Hartings is president and CEO of The People’s Bank Co. in Coldwater, Ohio.