REMOTE DEPOSIT CAPTURE, ONLINE BANKING, AUTOMATED CLEARING HOUSE (ACH) TRANSACTIONS, ENHANCED FRAUD PROTECTION SYSTEMS, AND STREAMLINED COMMUNICATION
BETWEEN BANKERS AND THEIR CUSTOMERS ARE SOME OF THE WAYS FINTECH (COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY APPLIED TO THE ACCOUNTING AND MANAGEMENT OF FINANCIAL TRANSACTIONS) IS EXPANDING AND SUPPORTING CORPORATE BANKING.
TO DISCOVER WHAT IS HAPPENING LOCALLY, STRICTLY BUSINESS INTERVIEWED REPRESENTATIVES OF FOUR NORTH COUNTRY BANKS: GLENS FALLS NATIONAL, NBT BANK, COMMUNITY BANK N.A., AND CHAMPLAIN NATIONAL. ALL AGREED TO SHARE THEIR BANK’S USE OF FINTECH, AND TO ALSO DISCUSS HOW ITS USE HAS ASSISTED WITH THE ADJUSTMENTS DICTATED BY COVID-19.
GLENS FALLS NATIONAL
“Pipeline management [a process of overseeing and directing future sales in various stages] and customer relationship management (CRM) are the two main areas where FinTech plays an important role,” said Craig Seybolt, Vice President, Corporate Banking Manager at Glens Falls National. “We use a platform called nCino, a customer management tool as well as a program developed to support the commercial loan origination process from application to closing. We have been using this program since 2019, and are really beginning to see efficiencies within our process.” In addition, during this pandemic, Seybolt and his team have found nCino to be of invaluable help in providing a platform for employees to work from home as well as allow work teams to easily access up-to-date, accurate customer and account information.
As with any implementation of a computer program into a process, training — for both bankers and customers — is needed to ensure that accuracy, reliability and effectiveness is maintained. Glens Falls National has a dedicated nCino team that meets regularly to continuously improve on the program and adapt it to the changing banking environment. To oversee the entire program, they have named an nCino administrator who remains up-to-date on any program changes.
According to Seybolt, the FinTech products Glens Falls National corporate customers rely on are online banking, online account statements and remote deposit capture, technology that provides customers with a desktop scanner that connects to a PC and internet banking in order to scan checks received from customers and issue deposits electronically to the bank. It is a secure way to improve business cash flow.
“We’re constantly evaluating our products and services to have the best advantages we can offer to customers. While we’re very much in the people business, having the technology to make our processes easier for the customer and for us is a win-win,” disclosed Seybolt.
As the months of the pandemic accumulate, Seybolt has seen expedited changes within the workplace as every business has been forced to quickly adapt to newer, more unconventional ways of delivering products and services. He believes this has strengthened customer relationships as everyone has had to make the adjustments together. “While we haven’t changed our approach,” said Seybolt, “naturally, we are having more conversations with our customers about how the pandemic has impacted their business and what they expect moving forward. The challenge is that the variables are changing daily so constant conversation has been key. I expect our efforts to deepen relationships will continue to grow as we look to further understand our customers and their businesses. Likewise, I believe customers have gained a much better understanding of how our bank works.”
Glens Falls National provided over $140 million of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to support more than 18,000 jobs at more than 1,500 local businesses during the second quarter of 2020. Seybolt explained, “This was a huge undertaking by our team who did an amazing job facing the challenge head-on in support of our customers and communities. In addition, we guided customers through the use of other stimulus programs such as the Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) as well as provided temporary loan assistance. Overall, our nCino platform has been of great assistance and will continue to be during the upcoming PPP loan forgiveness stage. This platform provides a user friendly, intuitive environment for the customer while ensuring application continuity for the bank.”
“My customers are some of the hardest working business owners in the North Country, and I have come to know many of them well” said Heather Couture, Commercial Banking Relationship Manager for NBT Bank. “Being a trusted advisor for my clients is truly what I love. As their relationship manager, I strive to help them with all their financial needs.”
According to Couture, NBT’s philosophy that having secure, fast, and easy-to-use technology at everyone’s fingertips makes business and banking easier for all is what drives them to update and refine their offerings to deliver the digital features and online functionality that their customers want and need. This philosophy had the bank and their customers well positioned to navigate the impacts of the pandemic.
Some FinTech resources NBT’s commercial customers rely on are its cash management services to manage their funds digitally, remote deposit capture and ACH, an electronic method of processing transactions between financial institutions. Additionally, fraud prevention services like Positive Pay helped clients mitigate risk during a time when oversight of their staffing was limited, and those willing to commit fraud were looking to take advantage of the situation.
As the pandemic prevented in-person contact with customers, NBT Bank also expanded the use of video conferencing and electronic signatures on documents so they could continue to consult with and support their customers in completing their transactions.
NBT’s response to the PPP legislation introduced in the wake of COVID-19 was decisive. Couture said, “When the Small Business Administration (SBA) launched the PPP, the team at NBT worked quickly to provide customers with a platform to complete loan documents online. This platform helped the bank secure approval for 3,000 PPP loans and over $540 million in relief. As we assist customers in applying for loan forgiveness through the SBA, we will also be supporting our customers with an automated process.”
COMMUNITY BANK N.A.
Like Glens Falls National and NBT Bank, Community Bank’s commercial lenders and their customers use FinTech products primarily for deposits, online banking and ACH transactions. According to Allen Racine, Commercial Banking Officer at Community Bank, Check Positive Pay has become a popular service that helps businesses reduce fraudulent activity on their deposit accounts. “They can upload their issued check files which are matched against incoming checks against the account,” explained Racine. “If there are items that don’t match the issued list, the customer has the option to pay or return the item. This service is available for ACH transactions as well. While this technology is not new to Community Bank, it continues to evolve.”
In order to effectively use FinTech in commercial banking, Community Bank has a cash management department with staff well versed in the various products and updates, dedicated to working with their bankers and customers to set up and assist them with financial technology.
When asked about the effects of COVID- 19 on business, Racine responded, “When much of day-to-day life has been disrupted, our role is to provide a source of consistency to our customers. Throughout the pandemic, we have made sure that we are available to customers via telephone, email and video meetings. We have been assisting our customers, especially those affected by COVID-19, by helping them get through the crisis with payment relief and providing loans through the Payroll Protection Program.”
Community Bank handled approximately 3,500 applications, totaling nearly $500 million. “This was a grassroots effort with commercial bankers and branch bankers working with our underwriting and documentation teams to get the applications completed and funded. We used our internal procedures to develop a streamlined process allowing our bank to assist our customers in their time of need,” explained Racine.
Not surprisingly, Racine has discovered that working from home and using less paper and more technology allows him to send, receive and review information electronically in a very efficient manner.
CHAMPLAIN NATIONAL BANK
“I like having the ability to assist people in either establishing or growing their business,” said Tim Kononan, Vice President of Commercial Lending at Champlain National Bank. “Commercial lending is probably the most flexible type of lending and I enjoy the ability to treat each unique situation on its own merits.” Champlain National Bank’s main corporate banking office is located right in downtown Plattsburgh, which means all decisions are made at a hyper-local level, from people who understand North Country businesses unique needs and situations.
Like his colleagues at other banks, Kononan agrees that online banking and remote deposit capture are required offerings in today’s competitive corporate banking environment. And, like other banks, Champlain National Bank oversees significant internal training on all its products. When necessary, they also employ outside consultants to help develop the internal expertise. Once the team has mastered the latest FinTech products to help make banking easier and more convenient for their clients, they spend significant time training businesses on how to get the most out of these tools. Training visits to site locations explaining the latest technology are commonplace for Champlain National Bank staff.
When COVID-19 hit, having businesses who understood how to use many of the fintech tools available made the transition to a temporary “by-appointment only” model much easier. Since the majority of Champlain National Bank’s corporate clients are located in Clinton and Essex counties, the commercial lenders were also able to personally reach out to them to see how they could help, giving businesses who were worried peace of mind.
Once COVID-19 necessitated stimulus legislation, Kononan and the team at Champlain National were active participants in the PPP process. They dedicated several staff people to the process which was mostly handled electronically. Working around the clock, the commercial lending team was able to help 240 businesses in Clinton and Essex counties obtain $25 million through the SBA system. This included many local businesses who had accounts with the bigger banks, but found they were unable to help them with the PPP process, highlighting the importance of having a local bank in town.
Glens Falls National
20 Smithfield Blvd.
Plattsburgh, NY 12901
185 Margaret St.
Plattsburgh NY, 12901
185 Margaret St.
Plattsburgh NY, 12901
Champlain National Bank
32 Cornelia St.
Plattsburgh, NY 12901