Despite a stagnant population in northeast Pennsylvania, Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank has seen major growth over the past decade. It’s down to how the community bank has intertwined its brand with its branch design, balancing value-driven relationship banking and innovative features.
By Eric Best
Name: Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank
Assets: $958 million
Location: Dunmore, Pa.
The saying at Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank is “Grow Green with Fidelity.” And the $958 million-asset community bank in Dunmore, Pa., is indeed growing greener and larger by rethinking its approach to branch design and relationship banking.
The work started in 2006 when Fidelity Bank’s leadership decided to make a concerted effort to think boldly about tying its brand and sustainability into its retail banking experience. As it built out several new branches over the years, Fidelity Bank has refined its design prototype, adding new features and shrinking each building’s overall footprint to take its customers’ banking needs into account. Bank leaders and architects from Pennsylvania firm DxDempsey visited financial institutions across the country, from Texas to South Carolina and Florida, to research the latest trends and assess what has been successful and what to improve.
recycled polyester fabrics were used to make the furniture inside Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank’s new branches
“We wanted to go to market in a way that differentiated ourselves from our competitors,” says Fidelity Bank president and CEO Dan J. Santaniello, who has been with the nearly 117-year-old community bank for 18 years. “We’re not this old, traditional bank that’s just going to continue to do banking the way it is.”
Many of the differences result in behind-the-scenes innovation. The new branches employ green building practices, from silver, angled cool roofs that reflect heat to efficient frosted-glass windows that adjust lighting based on the position of the sun. Even the paint is free of harmful chemicals.
The customer experience had a lick of paint, too. Under Fidelity Bank’s new model of service, a staff person will greet the customer within two steps of them entering the bank. Inside, a table made from milled lumber provides a platform for local businesses to showcase their work, a digital customer celebration wall displays what’s happening in the community, and a hospitality bar offers coffee and cookies baked that morning.
Person to person
You won’t find many tellers at Fidelity Bank. “We haven’t hired tellers in a few years,” Santaniello says. Instead, relationship bankers meet individual customers at “check desks” or, if privacy is needed, in offices that are built with glass curtain walls that are less intimidating. Santaniello adds that the bank tests potential hires for high intelligence and extroverted personalities to better the customer experience.
Fidelity Bank is also using technology to deepen customers relationships. It can put greater focus on high-value transactions by pushing customers online. In the branch, the bank does this with a technology bar featuring several mobile and smart devices that customers can use to familiarize themselves with Fidelity Bank’s mobile and digital offerings. With more customers making basic transactions online, Santaniello says the community bank can concentrate on financial advising and helping customers with high-value services while they’re in the branch.
“We want to introduce our clients to new technology,” he says. “We’ve embraced it. Our goal is to move clients out of line and move them online for those kinds of transactions, and to be able to engage them in a different way and drive a valued relationship.”
“The branches need to be innovative, because that’s where our brand is.”
—Dan J. Santaniello,
Fidelity Deposit and Discount Bank
To get customers to start thinking about long-term services like insurance and financial planning, walls at Fidelity Bank’s branches feature “burning financial questions” made of magnetic letters that it can change out. Michele Dempsey, the president, architect and creator of strategic branded experiences of DxDempsey, says this feature is meant to spark discussions between customers and bankers about saving for college, buying a home and other important financial milestones. “Banks are the access. Banks help people reach their aspirations. Banks help people create those opportunities,” Dempsey says. “So, we wanted to remind them that’s what they’re here for, not just to store money and make loans.”
Fidelity Bank’s branches continue to evolve as the needs of the bank and its customers change. Over the years, the footprint of its new branch design has shrunk by about a third. And Dempsey says her team is researching interactive teller machines (ITMs) that could replace traditional pneumatic tubes in future locations. Fidelity Bank plans to open its 12th branch this September.
“As a community bank, we’ve got to really think about what the building is going to look like and [whether it’s ] reflective of our brand,” Santaniello says. “The branches need to be innovative, because that’s where our brand is.”
New model drives growth
Santaniello says Fidelity Bank’s new branch design and customer service model has proved to be profitable. Despite little population growth in the Scranton, Pa., area, he adds, the community bank’s assets have skyrocketed and net income has remained high. In fact, it was recently named the fastest-growing company in 2018 by the Greater Scranton Chamber of Commerce.
“We like to say, ‘We’re 117 years old, it just took us a while to get there,’” he says. “Not only have we been able to grow, but we’ve been able to grow very profitably.”
On top of the financial benefits, these innovations have boosted recruitment efforts. “When you take the innovative environment and you take the training and development of those bankers, it’s been a good mix for us. It enables us to attract a lot of talented, young folks along the way,” Santaniello adds.
Dempsey credits the bank’s leadership for wanting to be “leading edge, not bleeding edge.” “I think that’s part of the magic there: that commitment to innovation, that commitment to learning, that commitment to evolving and not being afraid to try something but being smart about it,” she says.
Because, most importantly, Santaniello says these new features and the enhanced customer experience have stayed true to the bank’s culture and brand. “At the end of the day,” he says, “it’s about being able to build relationships with our clients.”
Eric Best is deputy editor of Independent Banker.