How Homebank drives customers to digital

CEO and chairman Joseph Thomas and Caly Cramsey, the chief financial officer and director of customer support, show off one of Homebank’s Discovery Bars.

By integrating innovations from its core provider into its branches, this Missouri and Illinois community bank has driven its customers to embrace new technology—without sacrificing the human interaction at the core of the relationship banking model.

By Eric Best

Name: Homebank
Assets: $400 million
Location: Palmyra, Mo.

When Homebank was planning its seventh branch location, it wanted to do things differently.

What changed? Leaders of the $400 million-asset community bank in Palmyra, Mo., decided to marry its internet and digital banking products with its new physical branch.

“We wanted to focus on [our] seventh location, which was the first to be in a [strip mall], so we wanted to try to develop a branch location that would fit into a small space, be more efficient, use more technology,” says Joseph Thomas, the community bank’s CEO and chairman. “We felt like customers were evolving, and they wanted to get the banking services on their timetable, to the level they were comfortable with.”

To better deliver these self-service digital solutions from its core provider, Computer Services, Inc., better known as CSI, Homebank leadership visited DBSI, a design firm in Chandler, Ariz. The result was a “Discovery Bar,” a new area of the branch right in the lobby. There, customers don’t just see screenshots of digital banking services; they see real demos in action, such as how to make SimplePay or P2P transactions on an iPad or tablet, how to start an account on a desktop computer, or how to make a business deposit via a Clover point-of-sale device.

Quick stat


more customers used Homebank’s Merchant Remote Deposit Capture service in the past year

Customers’ kids even have their own junior Discovery Bars with tablets featuring vetted financial literacy games and programming, which have them counting money, making change and getting started with the banking basics.

There’s something for all ages, says Caly Cramsey, Homebank’s chief financial officer and director of customer support. “We know how hard it is to do banking if you’ve got a kid pulling on your leg, so we gave them a spot where they could hang out and learn a little bit about banking,” she adds.

After implementing its first Discovery Bar in 2017 at its Canton, Mo., branch, Homebank has equipped its six other branches with the same technology. An eighth location under construction in Mexico, Mo., will see the same innovations. Thomas says the Discovery Bars create a space where customers can meet with its retail banking, lending and business banking teams not for just tech support, but also for “connect support.”

Oftentimes, he explains, customers need to walk through how digital products and services will work for them, their business or their systems. “Customers view the lobby more as a training center or business center where you can go resolve your issues,” he says. “By bringing that tech to every bank lobby, it really lets the customers identify the bank as a bridge to technology. A lot of those conversations happen in the Discovery Bar.”

From the back office to the lobby

The Discovery Bars represent Homebank’s decision to bring technical expertise, which had been dominated by behind-the-scenes staff, into the lobby, where other banking staff can learn and train one another as well as customers. “The best way for us to expand the ownership and the training [of our digital platforms] was to take it out of the back office and put it in the lobby of every location, primarily to stimulate inquiries, to stimulate [customer] training and to stimulate staff training,” Thomas says.

Customers interact with live solutions, not screenshots, at Homebank’s Discovery Bars.

Now Homebank’s business bankers have a mindset of integrating technology into their relationship with customers. The technology isn’t meant to replace human interaction, Cramsey says. Instead, it shows customers how they can complete self-service transactions digitally and rely on branch staff for “high touchpoint” services, such as training them to use and integrate digital solutions into their businesses.

“We think that if we can make our customers’ banking lives easier through our digital products, then they’ll continue to come back to us when they have additional needs,” Cramsey says. “We’re not trying to get them out of the door and never talk to them again but to build more of that relationship and get in deeper with them.”

“We think that if we can make our customers’ banking lives easier through our digital products, then they’ll continue to come back to us when they have additional needs.”
—Caly Cramsey, Homebank

Thomas says Homebank has been able to grow deposits without hiring due to this push for greater digital and business banking, which has resulted in fewer customer service and teller requests. “It’s really causing us to have organic growth without just layering on workforce,” he says. “We’ve used this to serve the liability side of the bank, and it’s really helping.”

Cramsey says that with this greater digital adoption, the bank thought it would see fewer in-branch interactions, but this hasn’t been the case. Rather, Homebank continues to see its customers come into its lobbies and meet with bankers.

“People are still coming into our lobby,” she says, “and that tells us that we have the opportunity to shift our employees’ focus from doing those teller transaction to interfacing with them on more relationship-building transactions and cross-training opportunities for our staff.”

Measurable results

Here are a few key figures from the past year under Homebank’s new model:

18% increase in digital banking users

20% more bills via its web and mobile app

23% more internal transfers

2x as many customers used its Positive Pay check fraud prevention tool, offered through CSI

26% more mobile checks deposits

9% internal loan payments via its app

Eric Best is the deputy editor of Independent Banker.