May 16, 2019 at 4:00pm
Karla Camillo Miller ’88

Do Traditional Bank Branches Have a Place in Today’s Digital World?

Community banks are an essential part of any town or city, since they are more likely to reinvest local dollars back into their communities and help create local jobs. These banks are usually locally owned, so decisions they make have a direct impact on their community, and especially on the people and businesses who call that community home. This relationship philosophy is a natural and important distinction in the way locally-owned banks interact with the community and conduct business: one customer, one loan and one relationship at a time. Bankers with roots in their community know how things work in their town and know how to get things done. They offer personalized services, local decision-making, and have access to new technology platforms.

Community bankers live and work in their towns, so they know the importance of having relationships with their customers and often know their customers on a personal level. They may attend the same church, and their kids may attend the same school. Community bankers are often deeply involved in their local communities, serving as volunteers on nonprofit boards and charitable organizations. They understand what is important to their communities, because the same things are important to them. Community bankers work together with customers to ensure they have the best products possible to meet their individual needs. Their decisions are timely, since they don’t need approvals from afar. Conversely, megabank loan officers may use impersonal qualification criteria such as credit scoring, without regard to individual circumstances. They may not have a true understanding of the local business to take into account when making loans. 

According to Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA), community banks are local, small businesses themselves, and only thrive when their customers and communities flourish because they answer to Main Street. Megabanks are driven by shareholder value and answer to Wall Street. 

Community banks are able to customize their approach to banking to meet customers’ needs. Some customers are technology-forward, therefore state-of-the-art technology, including ATMs that accept deposits, transfers between accounts, and print statements, as well as other technological options such as on-line banking apps, on-line account openings, and paperless statements are desired functionalities. Community banks also understand that customers sometimes want to work with a human being and staff their branches with local, friendly professionals who are happy to assist customers.

When community banks invest in modern, convenient locations and provide enhanced services and innovative technology, they convey their commitment to community members and demonstrate that they understand the banking needs of customers both today and in the future.

Karla Camillo Miller ’88 has a Bachelor of Arts degree in English Literature from Millikin. She is the director of corporate communications for Hickory Point Bank & Trust.