How One Bank Puts Agile Management Techniques Into Action

When David Mansfield took the reins as CEO of
Provident Bancorp six years ago, he could see that a change was needed, and
that required new thinking.

“We were a typical community bank trying to be
everything to everybody,” says Mansfield. He transformed the $1.1 billion bank
based in Amesbury, Massachusetts, into a “true commercial bank” to the small
and mid-sized companies that form the “backbone” of the community.

We’re trying to offer products and services that are not commodities, where we can differentiate ourselves, add value and get paid for it,” says Mansfield. “The customer’s appreciative, because they’re getting a product or service that really isn’t available to [small and mid-sized companies]” – like specialty services usually offered by large regional and money-center banks to their corporate clients.

To accomplish that, he needed employees who
weren’t afraid to shake things up. He also needed to develop a culture and
tools that facilitated collaboration within the organization. To do this, he
borrowed managerial techniques from the technology sector by adopting Lean and
Agile techniques.

Teams within the bank using these methods identify
how to improve processes and workflows. “We have had some really amazing
success stories,” says Mansfield.

Lean management aims for continual,
incremental improvement. Quick “daily huddles” in the bank help staff focus on
the day. In these 15-minute standup meetings, employees provide a quick update
about progress on key projects and share any obstacles they’re facing so these
issues can be addressed.

Mansfield credits Lean methods for improving interdepartmental dynamics. “One of the major premises of Lean [is that] it’s all about the customer experience, and we truly believe within this organization that everybody has a customer,” he says. Loan officers and branch staff directly interact with the customer, but support staff have a customer, too: their colleagues serving the customer. “What I love about our IT group is, they believe that wouldn’t happen unless they serve their customer, which is that group of people.”

Provident Bancorp still incorporates Lean
thinking, but started shifting to Agile techniques late last year, upon hiring
Joy Curth as senior information officer. Curth’s experience includes a stint in
application development at Intuit, and she understands Agile methods. The
principles of Lean and Agile are similar; both seek to create workflow
efficiencies and promote iterative development.

Curth doesn’t have a banking background, which
appealed to Mansfield. “We’re trying to do some different things, really
leverage technology, and the traditional bank chief information officer just is
not what I was looking for,” he says. As the bank weighs partnerships with
technology companies, “she’s not only able to speak their language, but she’s
able to recruit people to join her team [and] really professionalized our
project management team” due to her Agile background.

Adoption of Agile has been project based, and
the bank’s first project under the methodology was integrating ResX Warehouse
Lending, a warehousing lending division that it acquired in January from $58.6
billion People’s United Financial, based in Bridgeport, Connecticut.

“Dave came to us and announced we were going to do an acquisition, and we were able to complete that project in [roughly] 8 weeks,” says Curth. “A whole acquisition of staff, technology, contracts – that was pretty expedited and showed that we were able to do that without a hitch.” The project’s success encouraged bank leaders to roll out the approach for most key projects.

“Even the bank we were doing the acquisition
from [was] really impressed with our team,” says Mansfield. “We really drove
it; it was an everyday meeting, what’s the status, how to keep things going.”

Agile is an ongoing journey that Mansfield believes represents the “next evolution” for project management at Provident. He’s a big reader, and one of his favorites is “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…And Others Don’t,” by Jim Collins.

“There’s a concept he uses: Shoot bullets first,” says Mansfield. Shooting bullets means pursuing attempts that represent a low risk and require minimal resources. If it works, you recalibrate and then “shoot the cannonball when you’re ready,” he says – using your company’s resources to make a big move based on those earlier, iterative attempts.

Another one that he calls a “gut check” on Lean techniques is “Jumpstart Your Service Revolution: Transform Your Company’s DNA and Thrive in an Age of Disruption,” by Thomas Schlick.

adopting Lean and Agile techniques, Mansfield is creating a bank that
differentiates itself in the market. Curth adds that employees enjoy working
there. It’s what drew her to the bank. “When you implement this type of
culture, your morale is high, and there really is an energy that is compelling
and exciting,” says Curth.

Recommended Reading from David Mansfield, Provident Bancorp


Emily McCormick

Vice President of Editorial & Research

Emily McCormick is Vice President of Editorial & Research for Bank Director. Emily oversees research projects, from in-depth reports to Bank Director’s annual surveys on M&A, risk, compensation, governance and technology. She also manages content for the Bank Services Program. In addition to regularly speaking and moderating discussions at Bank Director’s in-person and virtual events, Emily regularly writes and edits for Bank Director magazine and She started her career in the circulation department at the Knoxville News-Sentinel, and graduated summa cum laude from The University of Tennessee with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and International Business.