Innovation Spotlight: American Savings Bank

May 15th, 2017

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Jack Kuntz, CEO, American Savings Bank

Jack Kuntz is president and CEO of American Savings Bank, with previous experience as the head of a core processing company. In this interview, Kuntz shares his thoughts about selecting providers, the benefits of investing in technology at both the employee and consumer level, and creating the bank’s most accessible customer service line—his personal cell phone number.

What investments in technology has American Savings Bank made that have added value?
Our investment in technology has been significant over the past three years and has provided a major component to our successful growth. American Savings is a multiregional bank with concentration in two areas of Ohio. One essential technology we employ is an HD video conferencing system which has saved time and money for the bank while reducing employee stress and protecting their safety by not driving two hours one way to attend a meeting. We use the system for everything from board meetings to operational meetings, and the technology is as effective on a PC or smart phone as it is on the big screens. In late 2015, we changed core processing systems, installed a new loan origination system and upgraded to a new mobile app. From a back office perspective, we have installed new and stronger vendor management and cybersecurity systems. All of these new technologies provide a benefit to the bank and our customers.

What made you decide to switch core processing systems?
Switching to a new core provider is the most significant and risky technology decision that a bank can make. Prior to becoming president of a core processor, I was in charge of support and conversions and was involved in dozens of core conversions over a span of nearly two decades. That first-hand knowledge about the costs of a conversion not only in dollars, but in employee stress, customer frustration and overall community reputation was invaluable. I believe there are three basic reasons to change core providers: you are paying too much, the current provider is lacking the products you need, or for some other reason you have lost confidence in the provider. Over the seven-year contract with the new provider, we are saving over 25 percent of our previous technology investment. That is significant as technology is the third largest expense item in our income statement, behind the cost of funding and personnel. Additionally, while having all the products of our prior provider, we were able to secure more commercial capabilities both on the loan and deposit side.

When it comes to implementing a fintech solution, would you rather buy, build or partner?
As a small community bank, building applications is cost prohibitive. In most cases we prefer to outsource major technologies to major players in the market. Our core, for example, is with D+H due to the many products the company offers. This gives our bank a single point of contact to obtain technology as we launch new and different products, as well as providing “one throat to choke” when the inevitable problems occur. When partnering or buying technology for the bank, a rigorous process is followed before a decision is made. Factors considered in our process include the financial strength of the provider, the fit of the product with our needs, viable references and accessibility to the decision makers within the provider’s company. Cost is always a factor but not the final determinant. My father used to say: “If you buy cheap, you buy twice”.

As consumer expectations in banking change, how does American Savings Bank stay connected with this audience?
We have found at American Savings that customer expectations vary in our two Ohio markets. In our metropolitan region, technology is more readily embraced, while the more rural region remains more face-to-face oriented. Having mobile, online loan applications, social media presence and other technologies are a prerequisite in today’s environment. Regardless of the region, we have created two keys to differentiating our brand. First is direct access to the CEO. All our advertising campaigns include my personal cell number. The second key is the reception you receive and the environment we create in our branch network. We provide a warm hello and fresh coffee or water in the lobby of our offices with cookies and pastries. I conveyed to my team that when a customer walks into one of our offices, I want them to feel like they walked into grandma’s house on Christmas Day.

Bank Director Staff Writer