Let’s get right to the punch: Size should not limit how progressive your bank can be with its digital innovation strategy. Don’t let asset size fool – or limit – you.

As a 2022 ICBA ThinkTECH Accelerator graduate, we’ve had the opportunity to speak to over 150 banks of every shape and size, and here is what we’ve heard. Not all banks are created equal. However, large or small, asset size shouldn’t box you in and prevent you from giving your customers and teams the digital experiences they expect.

That’s because asset size doesn’t correlate to a more-advanced digital ecosystem. We’ve seen $105 million banks act like $5 billion banks, and $8 billion banks act like $250 million banks. Every bank is at a different stage of its digital transformation journey. So, what’s the difference?

Smaller banks may not have as large of a budget for tech, but they are often able to move faster and experiment more easily because there are fewer stakeholders who need to buy-in. These banks are increasingly having to decide if they are going to grow and stay independent or become a more attractive acquisition target. Either way, digital systems are critical to their future.

Larger banks, on the other hand, usually have larger budgets, but more stakeholders involved in the decision-making process and more entrenched operations. Turning the Titanic can take time if the organization does not have a history of supporting experimenting with innovative technology solutions.

No matter the size, banks should assess whether their current technology stack is driving efficiency or dragging the team down due to platform fatigue or lack of clean integrations. In fact, banks have the ability to use digital innovation to decrease the efficiency ratio and increase returns on investment. In our experience, there are a few key things any institution needs to consider when evaluating digital platforms:

  • Does it create a delightful experience?
    Any platform you’re exploring should provide a clean, easy and delightful experience for both your borrowers and employees. Any sense of friction for either group and your institution could lose leads or operational efficiency.
  • Can the platform support a fully integrated environment?
    Platforms should not only be configured to align with your institution’s operational process, but also able to directly connect to essential technology providers: the core, customer relationship management software, know your customer or business solutions, credit providers and spreading platforms, among others. A well-integrated solution should eliminate duplicate work for your team and provide a 360-degree view of the customer, allowing staff to more effectively maximize each customer relationship.
  • Does it do more with the same size team?
    Digital solutions shouldn’t be used to justify letting employees go. They should elevate team members out of busy work to their best and highest use: establishing and growing customer relationships. Having a robust technology stack can help attract and retain top talent in today’s environment.
  • Can the platform scale with the bank?
    Digital platforms should help drive the efficiency ratio down and scale as your bank grows. Below are how two banks on different ends of the asset spectrum have embraced this concept.

Andrew Black, CEO of $105 million Princeville State Bank, based in Illinois, says, “We don’t let our asset size define how we want to serve our customers and team members. At the end of the day, we want to make sure we’re providing a customer-centered, easy experience that helps us continue to grow and expand our customer base. Digital banking capabilities are table stakes for any bank these days, regardless of how large they are.”

Allan Rayson, American Banker’s digital banker of the year and chief innovation officer at Arkansas-based Encore Bank has seen some of the fastest organic growth of any bank in the country. The $2.8 billion bank has a goal of hitting $5 billion in assets with a team of fewer than 400 people – and they’re on track to do it.

“We’re not trying to be the biggest bank in every market, but a bank that delivers an exceptional customer experience. The key is focusing on partnering with best-of-breed technology partners to make that happen. What we have seen with this approach is incredible growth, a transformation of our operations that supports our bank team members and an increase in our overall efficiency,” says Rayson.

Cornerstone Advisors’ annual report states that 86% of banks say their spend on tech is going to be somewhat or significantly higher this year. It’s not a question of “If,” but when and how your team tackles creating a digital ecosystem. Don’t let your asset size dictate what you think your institution can and can’t do. Make sure you’re partnering with a platform that meets you where you are and can scale with you as your bank grows.


Tyler Brantley