Banking on the go: Local banks balance technology and interpersonal relationships

Monday, June 20, 2011

Twenty-first century banking is being driven more and more by the information superhighway. The digital age has made it simple to bank anytime, anywhere, through a growing number of ways. Business Today talked to three Southeast Missouri banks that are moving through this brave new world of banking. But while the executives of these financial institutions believe technology is important in reaching and meeting the needs of customers, face-to-face banking remains a critical part of the long-established community relationship.

Commerce Bank

Many customers at Commerce Bank turn to technology for routine transactions, says Roger Tolliver, president of Commerce Bank's Southeast Missouri region. Online banking and mobile banking, for instance, allow customers to transfer funds, view recent account activity and receive alerts from the bank.

For business customers, Commerce offers remote deposit. Businesses use this device to scan checks they've received from their customers and send the check image directly to their bank account. It saves the time and expense associated with bank runs, photocopies and couriers.

"Despite technology, customers still want to have a relationship with their bank to help them make better financial decisions or to discuss their changing financial needs," Tolliver said.

First State Community Bank

"About five to six years ago, we noticed customers asking for online banking and requesting online bill pay service," said Butch Holyfield, president of First State Community Bank. "Now they are using mobile banking from their cell phone."

The bank even uses technology to help educate its customers: A computer in the lobby trains customers on the financial institution's online products. Bank employees recently started using email and Facebook to stay connected with their customers.

"Customers do not need to come into the bank as much as before unless they have a problem with their account – debit card dispute, fraud, stop payments – that they need assistance with," Holyfield said.

Alliance Bank

During the past couple of years, Alliance Bank has revamped its online banking services and its website. The number of Internet transactions has increased dramatically, but the bank's lobby also remains busy, said Kevin Greaser, community bank president of Alliance Bank.

Alliance does not offer a mobile banking service, but the financial institution would add the service if there becomes a demand for it, Greaser said.

When it comes to deciding how to stay connected with their customers, Alliance employees take it on a case-by-case basis.

"We ask our customers how they prefer to communicate as well as what they want to hear from us about and how often," Greaser said. "Whenever possible we like to talk face-to-face or by phone."

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