Director of Strategic Initiatives
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In this community bank feature, we spoke to an executive from Evergreen Bank Group about how they serve their community and the strategies they are using to meet new customer demands.
April is community bank month, a time to recognize the commitment and dedication that banks have to their communities. COVID-19 has had a significant impact on small businesses and caused great uncertainties across the United States. Consequently, the role that community banks play in their cities and towns has never been greater.
The team at Fintel Connect has had the privilege of collaborating with forward-thinking community banks that are committed to driving progress through innovation. We are pleased to showcase their stories through a series of interviews explaining the role that these banks play in their local economies, particularly in the current pandemic.
In this showcase, we interviewed Renee Montgomery, vice president of marketing at Evergreen Bank Group about the state of community banking today and how customers needs are changing as digital and mobile banking grow more important.
Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, Evergreen Bank Group is a locally owned and managed, full- service state chartered commercial bank. Since its founding in 2007, Evergreen assets have grown from $70 million in 2007 to more than $1 billion today. The bank, which employs more than 140 people across 4 locations in Illinois and Nevada, attributes its growth to its national business model and local community banking philosophy.
FC: What role does your bank play in your community and the local economy? What role do you think community banks play in the broader national economy?
RM: Evergreen Bank Group is committed to the communities and areas we serve. We help make banking easy for consumers and businesses and care about our neighbors. We donate to organizations that support our neighbors who need a helping hand, including food pantries, housing assistance organizations, schools, and many more. We also partner with organizations like park districts that help make our communities stronger.
Our employees are active in many nonprofits, volunteering and donating financially. We also lend to businesses that help the local economies. This past year, for example, through our partnership with the Federal Home Loan Bank of Chicago, we distributed grants to local businesses that were struggling because of the pandemic. This community involvement is why I love our bank – we are not just a place for your savings account. We are true members of the community. This cycle of keeping it local helps strengthen the local economy. Our role as a community bank is essential to the national economy.
We provide the building blocks that help build stronger communities. When local communities are strong, the nation’s economy is stronger too.
“[The] cycle of keeping it local helps strengthen the local economy. Our role as a community bank is essential to the national economy.”
Renee Montgomery, Evergreen Bank Group, Oak Brook, Illinois
FC: In what ways has community banking changed compared with when you started working in this industry? What are some key differences in today’s community bank versus that of 5-10 years ago?
RM: If you go back five or ten years community banks were the foundations of their communities. When people ran errands, it usually included a visit to the neighborhood bank. Bankers knew most of their customers personally, and the products offered were simpler and advertised mainly in the local paper.
Today, many customers still visit us on a weekly basis, but an increasing number of them prefer to bank with us online. In response, we have increased the number of online products we offer. The impact of Covid-19 has accelerated the adoption rate of digital banking technology, as more customers have begun to conduct more of their banking online. Our goal is to make banking easy for our customers, whether they are in our community, at college, or on vacation.
Another key difference is how we promote the bank and our products. We still advertise in the local newspaper, but now our digital marketing strategies are even more essential. Our customers and potential customers are online, so this is where we need to be to get their attention. Consider the number of hours each day you spend on your computer or your phone – getting your news, being social, listening to music, watching tv, or playing a game. These represent opportunities for us to market our banking products, all digital places we would not have considered ten years ago.
FC: How have your customers’ needs changed? What strategies have you employed to be in a position to meet new demands?
RM: The biggest change is that our customers need to be able to conduct their banking from anywhere. They need us to be mobile so they can take us with them wherever they go. We are meeting these needs with our mobile app and online bill pay capabilities. But we want to make the online experience even better so, later this year, we plan to launch new online/mobile banking and online account opening solutions. This digital strategy is a long-term solution that has taken a lot of time and resources to design and implement, but we are confident it will meet the demands of our existing customers as well as new ones in the future.