Need digital payments guidance? Try this ICBA Bancard tool

illustration of payments

A free, interactive tool and guide from ICBA Bancard and Aite Group is helping community bankers to tailor their digital payments strategies to their customers’ needs.

By Mary Yerkes

Customer demand for digital payments continues to rise, and with it, the number of serious competitors contending for market share. Although community banks have long realized the benefits of digital payments, only 19% of financial institutions say they have a clear digital strategy in place and a roadmap for digitization.

For member banks, ICBA Bancard’s free Digital Payments Strategy Tool and Guide, developed in partnership with Aite Group, offers a responsive Q&A assessment, developed to help community bankers create a custom digital payments strategy, and a digitization road map for their customers. By answering the questions posed in the tool, community banks gain insight into the maturity of their digital payments strategy and their ranking among peers. The result is a road map that provides guidance on where to start and how to take their strategy to the next level.

Here, three community banks share their experiences using the Digital Payments Strategy Tool and Guide and how others might benefit from what they learned.

Citizens Bank of Las Cruces

Citizens Bank of Las Cruces in Las Cruces, N.M., has always relied on manual processes to monitor its digital offerings and compare them with its competitors’. But with technology and digital strategy constantly changing, bank leadership found themselves wondering if they were choosing products that their customers want and need. The $640 million-asset community bank approached the digital strategy and tool looking for answers.

“The tool gave us new ideas for monitoring our delivery channels, specifically ACH transactions,” says Ruth Christopher, chief financial officer and executive vice president. “We are tracking ACH transactions and watching the growth of those transactions, but we are not breaking down transactions by specific type.”

“The tool gave us new ideas for monitoring our delivery channels, specifically ACH transactions.”
—Ruth Christopher, Citizens Bank of Las Cruces

It’s now on the bank’s to-do list. “We came up with the idea having gone through this tool. It helped us better understand our customers’ behavior and usage,” she says. “If we know what the customers are using, then we can encourage other customers who are not using those types to do so.”

Citizens Bank of Las Cruces plans to work on its strategic plan later this year and will incorporate some of the ideas expressed in the road map to expand on what the community bank is currently doing. “It will make us more competitive,” Christopher says, “and, in the end, it will also help us improve the bottom line.”

Coulee Bank

When Mike Gargaro, chief operating officer of $386 million-asset Coulee Bank in La Crosse, Wis., completed the online assessment, he was surprised to learn that his bank scored three out of four in the tool’s digital payments maturity model, which measures what state a bank is at in the development process of a digital payments strategy.

“Bankers like to use peer groups as a measuring stick, and this tool gives you an idea where you sit in the payments spectrum, and that is probably one of the most interesting results for us,” Gargaro says. “But we can’t get complacent and think we’ll stay there by doing nothing.”

For example, Coulee Bank has used a siloed approach to digital payments, which fits into its strategic plan. But the strategy guide and tool drove home the fact that the community bank requires a separate digital payments strategy, which it plans to create this fall.

The assessment also revealed that Coulee Bank could better integrate its card offerings, as its credit cards and debit cards operate on different platforms. The tool drew attention to changes and increased efficiencies the community bank could consider.

“I think the digital payments landscape is ever changing,” Gargaro says, “and to maintain your independence as a community bank, you need to strive to improve and remain relevant with your product offerings in the digital payments area.”

Community Spirit Bank

When it comes to digital payments, Community Spirit Bank always keeps an ear to the ground, looking for ways to enhance customer experience.

“Change is happening at a rapid pace, and the competition is increasing faster,” says Emily Mays, vice president and senior marketing director for the $150 million-asset community bank in Red Bay, Ala. “You’re expected to have this suite of digital services no matter what the size of your bank.”

While Community Spirit Bank has a strong digital foundation, ICBA Bancard’s online tool revealed there is room for improvement. For example, the community bank’s person-to-person (p2p) and remote deposit capture functions are available in its mobile app, but, on the back end, the functions have separate vendors, applications and core integrations.

“We had never looked at it that way until we took the assessment,” Mays says. “We may be making this harder and adding extra steps.”

The bank is looking for ways to streamline the process to flow through one centralized location. It’s taking active steps to review its core options, which it has already narrowed down.

“Taking the time to do the assessment and drill down into each of the components gave us tremendous insight,” Mays says. “In 20 minutes, you can get a good snapshot of where you are and gain insights you can use on the next implementation.”

Try the guide for yourself

ICBA members can visit to access the ICBA Bancard Digital Payments Strategy Guide and take the interactive assessment.

Mary Yerkes is a writer in North Carolina.