The Narmi team kicked off the 2024 conference season in a major way at Bank Director’s Acquire or Be Acquired (AOBA) in Phoenix, Arizona. Not only was this a great way to learn from other key industry leaders, but it also allowed us the opportunity to facilitate connections with forward thinking community financial institutions and help them understand how to be where banking is going.
Just as our financial institution customers are always looking for new ways to establish community bonds, here at Narmi we maintain that same sentiment. By hosting several events including a welcome happy hour, private dinner, and an NFL NFC Championship Game screening, we were able to build those deeper connections.
As we look forward to the year ahead, including our third Innovators Retreat, a few key themes proved to be paramount for leaders in the industry at AOBA.
The competition for core deposits remains fierce, and while it is anticipated that the Fed will cut rates this year, there is uncertainty regarding when this will come to fruition. In order to maintain low-cost deposits and remain competitive against larger players, community financial institutions need to rely on best-in-class account opening and digital banking solutions.
There is no denying the last several years have been unprecedented times, especially within the banking industry. While COVID propelled the need for enhanced digital banking services in 2020, the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) spotlighted the importance of maintaining trust with customers and members during times of uncertainty. What’s more, it further solidified the criticality of having a stellar digital account opening platform should consumers want to pull their deposits from larger players due to a lack of trust. Spoiler alert: they did, and Narmi customers were prepared and ready to accommodate the influx.
The small and mid-sized business market has its own unique sets of challenges – and opportunities – that many financial institutions have ignored for too long. In order to grow throughout 2024 and beyond, community banks and credit unions need to consider how their product offerings such as digital account opening, digital banking, and even real-time payments can serve this market.
As part of AOBA, Nikhil Lakhanpal, Narmi Co-Founder, had the opportunity to sit down with Jill Castilla, President and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond (Citizens), to discuss the power of finding the right fintech partner, ensuring successful implementation processes, and breaking down innovative barriers.
While Jill and Nikhil first met ahead of Narmi’s 2022 Digital Banking Transformation Summit, it wasn’t until 2023 that Narmi and Citizens began working together. Ahead of the collapse of SVB, Jill was already researching opportunities to expand the reach of Citizens beyond its current one branch geographical location. The collapse of SVB sped up this process from a nice to have item, to a necessity.
By maintaining a small, but highly connected and nimble team, Narmi and Citizens were able to get their consumer digital account opening platform live in just 72 days, followed by business account opening three months later. While the Citizens’ team has worked together on many implementations previously, they are not afraid to fail, but fail fast and pivot as needed should a project not serve their end goals.
“I think what the differentiator is, and it goes back to being small, is that we don’t have a project management team or a Chief Innovation Officer,” Jill said. “Everything we do is done by interdepartmental leadership… and they also have the scarcity of time, so when they decide they want to go for something, there is a lot of rigor that has gone up to the point of making that decision.”
Besides maintaining highly engaged and motivated teams across both Citizens and Narmi, Jill also credited the success of the implementation to the pre-work and risk assessment that was done months prior and included representation across compliance, operations, retail, and lending. Jill also credits Narmi’s implementations team for the successful and timely launch.
“Make sure you have a great partner that you can depend upon, and great communication. I’ve told so many vendors that there is nothing like Narmi’s project management team and processes… Being transparent and having candor, both with your partner as well as internally, is absolutely imperative… You get something really special on the other side when you have a great product and partner to work with.” – Jill Castilla, President and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond
While Citizens was previously able to open several hundred accounts in their single branch monthly, the expansion with Narmi nearly doubled that figure. Besides just account opening, Citizens was also able to run a special CD promotion directly through Narmi’s platform, virtually eliminate account opening fraud, and massively simplify the account opening process particularly for business customers.
“Business account opening you just don’t see very often as a digital means, and there are so many documents going back and forth, and trying to use platforms to get all the documents together from all the different account holders together and signed appropriately,” Jill said. “The ease with which we have created digital account opening for our business customers has been life changing for our team members.”
Besides just allowing for new deposit streams, Nikhil echoed the transformative nature of Narmi’s digital account opening platform, especially when it comes to the impact on staff.
“Tech companies and banks are not that different. I would argue business account opening is really about empowering your sales force to close more clients and do more, just like how Narmi purchases tools like a CRM to better empower our own sales team,” said Nikhil.
By removing these barriers, Citizens' employees are able to focus their efforts on helping customers meet and maximize their financial goals, rather than spending time reviewing and uploading countless files. Furthermore, this suite of deposit products has allowed Citizens to continue to grow and be “everything for everyone” through the assistance of Narmi’s partnership.
As a result of this expansion into business and consumer digital account opening nationwide, Citizens is better positioned to meet their focus on scaling and gaining low-cost deposits, while remaining nimble and adjusting to changes in the market.