Small solutions, big results

Kimberly Kirk and Kathryn Murph

A digital office solutions provider needed critical support with its daily processes in the wake of the pandemic. When major financial institutions proved ineffective, a Georgia community bank stepped up to the plate with its own accessible blend of virtual and tech resources.

By Colleen Morrison

Community banks have for years been making innovation a priority. In fact, “high-tech, high-touch” has emerged as a mantra for the industry. But how that concept translates to daily operations depends on a community bank’s unique business approach.

“Innovation is process-driven. It doesn’t have to be some big, massive thing. It’s small things every day that help our customer experience.”
— Kimberly Kirk, Queensborough National Bank and Trust Co.

For example, the answer to an innovation challenge may require fewer shiny solutions in favor of a strategic process shift, according to Kimberly Kirk, executive vice president and chief operations officer at $2 billion-asset Queensborough National Bank and Trust Co., in Louisville, Ga.

“Innovation is process-driven,” says Kirk. “It doesn’t have to be some big, massive thing. It’s small things every day that help our customer experience.”

That certainly fits the bill for Queensborough customer Kathryn Murph, who turned to the bank during the pandemic when she needed deeper support for her company, ABR Digital Office Solutions. Over the years, ABR has evolved from a traditional copy and print service provider to one offering software applications and Voice over Internet Protocol to support myriad business communication needs. But when COVID-19 reared its head and shutdowns stymied business, Murph quickly learned that her megabank provider was anything but nimble.

“The megabanks were totally flatfooted,” she says. “They didn’t have the infrastructure; they didn’t have the know-how; and they weren’t able to pivot on a dime. And there was radio silence from our big bank. Absolutely nothing.”

Murph knew she needed a reliable bank partner to support her payroll needs through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), so she reached out to Queensborough.

Kathryn Murph: I had a personal banking relationship at Queensborough and reached out to their management team. We got our PPP application filed within two to three days, and that basically kept us afloat. We had our PPP money before we ever heard back from the big bank. In fact, thanks to Queensborough, we had brought all our employees back by the time our former bank finally reached out about PPP.

Kimberly Kirk: We put our customers—and communications with them—first. In the case of PPP, process innovation helped our ability to respond quickly. We had increased our investment in robotic process automation (RPA) to shift from manual or repetitive processes to a more streamlined and automated approach. Queensborough created an application portal on our website. Using RPA, we were able to identify which Queensborough lender the application belonged to and deliver it to the lender. We also automated document completion, boarding of loans and funding of loans using RPA, allowing our teams to communicate with customers instead of managing the internal process.

Approaching innovation from a process perspective has led to many new advances for Queensborough beyond PPP. In fact, the team established an internal innovation center and test lab to encourage employee collaborations, and to experiment with new products and ideas.

Kirk: We go through a really intensive testing process. For example, we rolled out interactive teller machines (ITMs) over a year ago. To get to launch, we put an ITM in our operations center that we loaded our software on, and tested and trained on before we installed any machines in the live customer environment to make it a better customer experience when we were live.

More from Kim

Kimberly Kirk was a guest on a recent episode of ICBA’s Communities of Innovation podcast, talking about finding and keeping talented staff. Find it at or wherever you get your podcasts.

Murph: I’ve been really impressed with the investment they’re putting into technology. Thanks to their ITMs, I can have a human interface for transactions, but I can still get money from a machine.

The community bank’s goal in setting up the ITM experience ties directly back to its focus on innovation—and to putting the customer first.

Kirk: I want to leverage technology to create a human experience, and that’s what we did with ITMs. You still have live Queensborough teammates on those video screens to be able to support our customers. In fact, early in our launch phase, I heard a customer I know is a native English speaker choose the Spanish option for human assistance. When I came to try and help him with his choice, he told me, “Oh, I know Tabatha; she’s helping me with my Spanish.” That’s the kind of connection we want to create.

Murph: With Queensborough … you feel heard, and you receive the same service that you would want your clients to receive. We are long-term loyal to Queensborough because of the support they offered, and they are right there anytime we need something.

Colleen Morrison is a writer in Maryland.