The Soul of a New Community Bank

Reading Cooperative Bank By Anthony Patti, Senior Vice President & CFO, Reading Co-operative Savings Bank

The first thing visitors notice when they step into Reading Cooperative Bank’s main office is its openness – there is no teller line. The second thing is the whoosh of customers walking to the next available Banking Specialist.

Two years after the bank switched to an open lobby design and a more conversational approach to banking and finance, customers responded enthusiastically to the change. Their initial question – “Where do I go?” – has vanished along with the ropes, offices and teller line while they are building deeper relationship with the bank.

Everyone is pleased with the change.

Bankers everywhere have noticed that customers conduct their business differently today. Our job as a community bank is to change the pace of our customer interactions to encourage conversations that enable us to serve our customers more completely.

To make that happen, we changed plenty more than our branch layout. We replaced our legacy mainframe technology with modern, flexible core technology from COCC.

Just as we didn’t want our tellers to be stuck behind a cage as if we were afraid of our customers, we didn’t want our technology to be stuck behind antiquated system architecture. We now have the financial services that customers want and the flexibility to adapt to changing market conditions. We know our customer as soon as she/he reaches the branch service assistant. We offer more meaningful cross sells, and we open 40% more accounts than we did on our old system.

Our staff sell the new products and branch design because they’re excited about them. They use the cash recycler technology to provide exact change without counting out bills or walking to the vault. They engage our customers, who now enjoy coming to the branch, discussing their finances, and utilizing our products and services. They recommend us to their friends.

We have a very popular coin recycling machine – free to our customers – but just as popular are our sessions to help customers complete their online loan applications and to use our new touchscreen, paperless ATMs. It’s the hand-holding that counts.

Events, social media and an ever-changing website help us stay top-of-mind in our marketplace. Nearly 200 people received free coffee from a local shop one morning – all served in Reading Cooperative Bank mugs. We teach classes in finance to first and third graders, and we post money-saving tips on Facebook and Twitter.

Training is key to the success of our new approach to community banking. We have changed up the job description, creating career opportunities for our tellers turned banking specialists, who can provide one-stop service – something that our employees enjoy as much as our customers.

Our new branch layout encourages a team approach to service, and our employees appreciate knowing that they can ask each other for help. Our customers appreciate it too.

In the old days, transaction speed and balancing were the teller’s most important qualities. Success today depends on being sociable, as well as knowing the products and when a customer will be most receptive. Balancing is nowhere near as important as that.

We are not my mother’s bank anymore. We are attracting a younger clientele and getting the older customers excited about the change because we still answer the phone and still answer their questions by the close of each business day.

In the beginning, our customers needed a greeter to navigate our new branch design. Now our customers serve as greeters for their friends.

That’s how Reading Co-operative Bank continues to transform community banking.