2019 Survey Results! Here’s How Banks Are Spending Money on Technology

The desire to streamline customers’ experience and improve efficiency is driving bank technology strategies across the industry, as most executives and directors believe their offerings are “adequate,” according to Bank Director’s 2019 Technology Survey, sponsored by CDW.

The survey, conducted in June and July 2019, reflects the views of CEOs, technology executives and independent directors. It seeks to better understand bank strategies, staffing and budgets around technology and innovation, as well as banks’ relationships with legacy core providers and newer vendors.

Seventy-eight percent of survey respondents say that improving the customer experience is a top objective driving their bank’s strategy around the investment, development and implementation of technology. Seventy-two percent say that fueling efficiency is a top objective.

These strategic objectives are driving where banks are investing in technology: 68% say they’re investing in automation in fiscal year 2019, and 67% are investing money to enhance the bank’s digital channels.

Most banks rely on their core provider to advance these goals. The cores are the primary providers for many of the technologies used by banks today, including application programming interfaces (68% say that API technology is provided by the core), business process automation (43%), data aggregation (42%) and peer-to-peer (P2P) payments (47%).

That relationship isn’t stopping many banks from searching for new potential partners; 60% are willing to work with newer fintech startups. The survey finds that the use of alternate providers is gaining ground, in particular when it comes to the cloud (57%), data aggregation (25%) and P2P payments (29%).

Despite the rise of the digital channel, 51% of respondents say the branch is equally important to online and mobile channels when it comes to growing the bank. More than half indicate they’re upgrading branch and ATM technology.

Just 30% say that driving top-line growth fuels their technology strategy, which indicates that most banks see technology as a way to save money and time as opposed to generating revenue.

Key Findings

  • Loyal to the Core. More than half of respondents say their core contract expires within the next five years. Sixty percent say they’re unlikely to switch to a new provider.
  • But Banks Aren’t Satisfied. Just 21% say they’re completely satisfied with their core provider.
  • Technology Pain Points. Sixty percent say their current core provider is slow to provide innovative solutions or upgrades to their bank, and almost half cite difficulty in implementing new solutions. These are major sticking points when 60% rely on their core provider to introduce innovative solutions.
  • It’s All on IT. Almost three-quarters point to the senior technology executive as the individual responsible for identifying, developing and implementing technology solutions. Almost half task a management-level committee to make decisions about technology.
  • Rising Budgets. Forty-five percent say their technology budget has risen between 5% to 10% for FY2019. Almost one-quarter report an increase of more than 15%. Responding banks budgeted a median of $750,000 for FY2019.
  • Where the Money’s Going. In addition to automation, digital enhancements and branch improvements, banks are hiring consultants to supplement in-house expertise (50%), and bringing on additional employees to focus on technology and innovation (43%).
  • Data Gap. Almost half describe their bank’s data analytics capabilities as inadequate.
  • More Expertise Needed. Fifty-three percent say technology is on the agenda at every board meeting — up three points from last year’s survey. Yet, 80% say the board needs to enhance its technology expertise. Forty-three percent say they have a technology expert on the board.
  • Cybersecurity Top of Mind. Protecting the bank from cyberattacks dominates board technology discussions, according to 96% of respondents. Many boards also focus on process improvements (63%) and implementing innovative customer-facing technology (46%).

To view the full results of the survey, click here.

How Innovative Banks Are Reimagining the Core


core-7-10-19.pngNew developments in technology have heightened bank customers’ expectations of speed, service and customization from their financial institutions—and cores are struggling to keep up.

Consumer expectations for banks are so high that it’s difficult—if not impossible—to meet them using existing core banking systems. Luckily, the landscape of core providers is growing rapidly too, and some banks are already taking the plunge.

The “Big Three” core providers as they’re known in the industry—Fiserv, Jack Henry & Associates and Fidelity National Information Services—serve just over 71 percent of U.S. banks according to data company FedFis. They’re criticized for providing poor service and lagging significantly behind smaller, more nimble fintechs when it comes to innovation. And their recent acquisition streaks have bank clients worried that it could erode service levels, reduce choice and increase cost.

James “Chip” Mahan III, chairman and CEO of Live Oak Bancshares, described the situation aptly: “It just seemed like every time we wanted to do something, it’s impossible. It’s ‘stand in line and write a big check.’ And it’s really, fundamentally, putting lipstick on a pig.”

That’s why the bank, based in Wilmington, North Carolina, invested in an emerging competitor—Finxact—and courted creators and industry veterans Frank and Michael Sanchez out of semi-retirement to take on the challenge of reinventing the core.

Finxact is an inventory management system that’s been architected from scratch on Amazon Web Services. Finxact and other alternative core providers offer three key features that banks should demand from a 21st century core processor.

Open Architecture
Nearly every core has some type of application programming interface (API) that allows its technology to connect to third-party applications, though the availability of those APIs is still tightly controlled in legacy systems.

Most challenger cores embrace open architecture—a quality that stands in stark contrast to the situation with incumbent cores. Deland, Florida based Surety Bank wasn’t able to negotiate with its legacy provider to use a third-party remote deposit capture solution.

CEO Ryan James says that was “a deal killer” because the bank does a large volume of deposits with that provider, had tailored it to their needs and had undergone examinations with it as well.

“It just was absurd that [our legacy core] didn’t even want to take that file, because they were greedy. They wanted to charge the [remote deposit] rates on that even though they couldn’t do what we needed,” he says. “That was an eye opener.”

Surety Bank eventually chose to undergo a full core conversion. It only took four months for the bank to launch on a cloud-based system from NYMBUS at the beginning of 2018.

Cloud Native
In addition to featuring open architecture, many challenger cores are cloud native. Although most legacy cores have some ability to run some of their system within a cloud environment, truly cloud-native companies offer banks greater advantages.

“There are different services that the cloud provides that will enable you to scale without drastically increasing your costs,” says Eugene Danilkis, co-founder and CEO of Berlin-based core technology provider Mambu. “That allow [cores] to have the best practices in terms of security, in terms of disaster recovery and also the sort of operations you can support.”

One of the operational advantages a cloud-native system provides is the ability to deploy updates within a day or two, Danilkis says.

Being cloud native is synonymous with scalability; a system can handle one hundred accounts as easily as it can handle one hundred thousand. This significant benefit means core providers don’t need to charge banks for each new account or service they add, and often use software-as-a-service models or other simple, transparent pricing schemes.

Configurable
Perhaps the most important hallmark of a modern core system is configurability. Modern cores give banks the ability to create their own ecosystems, workflows and bespoke financial products that differentiate them from competitors.

Banks on a core like Finxact could build a new type of savings account that automatically raises its interest rate when the balance reaches a certain level. In contrast, legacy cores only offer out-of-the-box products that can be tweaked to meet a bank’s risk appetite or other basic requirements, without changing the product.

Changing the Game
Modern core processors approach banking technology in radically different ways from legacy core providers. They’ve built new systems from scratch, instead of bolting on acquired products. They run in realtime instead of overnight batches. They look and feel like websites instead of flat green screens. They’re open, cloud-native and highly configurable—and they’re finally coming into their own. Innovative banks should explore these options now so that they can leapfrog their peers in the near future.

Potential Technology Partners

Finxact

Currently in limited use at Live Oak Bancshares and engaged in discussions with several other U.S. banks.

NYMBUS

The SmartCore platform is powering at least one community bank, and its SmartLaunch product uses SmartCore to support digital-only brands for additional institutions.

EdgeVerve

The Infosys Finacle core is used in over 100 countries and made waves in the U.S. when Discover Financial Services left Fiserv to use this core for its direct banking business in late 2014.

Smiley Technologies

The SIBanking platform is currently in use in several U.S. banks with assets up to $1.3 billion.

Thought Machine

This London-based company wrote its cloud-native Vault core from scratch. The company states that it has clients in the U.S., but is unable to identify them publicly.

Mambu

Mambu has bank clients in 15 countries. In the U.S., current clients include non-bank lenders, and the company is planning to use its latest funding round, in part, to grow its footprint in the U.S.

Mbanq

The founder of NYMBUS just joined this operation to help the company expand into the U.S. They currently serve 15 banks primarily in Europe and Asia.

Learn more about each of the technology providers in this piece by accessing their profiles in Bank Director’s FinXTech Connect platform.

How to Save Millions in Vendor Costs Without Changing a Thing


vendor-6-21-19.pngA mutual bank with $1.72 billion in assets managed to save more than $4.4 million in expenses—without changing a single IT supplier or disrupting online customers. Other banks can do it too.

In 2014, BayCoast Bank, in Swansea, Massachusetts, found itself with three suppliers that had three different termination dates. Its core account processing supplier was in the early days of an eight-year agreement but its online retail banking and commercial online services agreements both had about 24 months remaining. The bank, led by President and CEO Nicholas Christ and aided by Chief Information Officer Daniel DeCosta, decided to negotiate against their core IT suppliers and technology vendors in order to save costs. Ultimately, they found a way to save the bank millions and continue servicing customers by leveraging market intelligence and pricing data, with the help of outside expertise.

BayCoast made the same mistake many banks do: signing agreements that are too long and not coterminous with each other. Bank should never lock themselves into contracts that are longer than 60 to 84 months.

To prepare, BayCoast leveraged a business analysis to come up with a new approach to managing these relationships. BayCoast needed to renew its retail and commercial online banking agreements, but market analysis indicated these agreements were over-priced by at least $1.2 million over five years. The contracts had deficiencies, and lacked balancing commercial terms and meaningful service level agreements.

The bank took advantage of a recent acquisition by its core supplier to create a competitive bidding process for these two contracts. The core supplier offered nearly $1 million more in incentives to take over the retail and commercial banking agreements, but the incumbent beat that by offering $2 million to keep the relationship.

The reduction of $2 million from the bank’s cost structure improved BayCoast’s efficiency rate and allowed it to redirect the funds toward other fintech projects and initiatives.

After several years had passed, Baycoast gave itself a 24-month margin before its vendor agreements expired to renegotiate those contracts. This margin allowed executives enough time to get a deal they wanted, or find another supplier.

This time, BayCoast wanted a total change for its commercial online vendor. Their incumbent core and retail online banking suppliers both had competitive offerings, but were under performance probation periods. DeCosta used a third party to interface and negotiate with the suppliers for the core and retail online banking renewals.

The result? Savings of at least another $2.4 million in cost reduction. The bank is putting the finishing touches on its commercial online contract, which could add another $500,000 and push straight-line savings to more than $5 million. This is the equivalent of $151 million in new loans, assuming a net interest margin of 3.3 percent.

By adopting a new approach to negotiating critical vendor relationships and using an outside expert, BayCoast freed up funds that are better deployed. The vendors now have a happy client who is confident they have a market-conforming deal. It’s a win-win for both parties.

Three Tech Strategies for Banks, Based on Size


strategy-5-3-19.pngHow should you position your bank for the future—or, for that matter, the present?

This is one of the most perplexing questions challenging leadership teams right now. It is not a new consideration; indeed, the industry has been in a constant state of evolution for as long as anyone on our team can remember. Yet lately, it has taken on a new, possibly more existential sense of urgency.

Fortunately, there are examples of banks, of different sizes and a variety of business models, keeping pace with changing consumer expectations and commercial clients’ needs. The industry seems to be responding to the ongoing digital revolution in banking in three ways.

The biggest banks—those like JPMorgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp. and Wells Fargo & Co.—have the resources to forge their own paths on the digital frontier.

These banks spend as much as $11 billion a year each on technology. They hire thousands of programmers to conceptualize digital solutions for customers.

The results are impressive.

As many as three-quarters of deposit transactions are completed digitally at these banks. A growing share of sales, account openings and money transfers take place over these banks’ digital channels as well. This allows these banks to winnow down their branch networks meaningfully while still gaining retail deposit market share.

The next step in their evolution is to combine digital delivery channels with insights gleaned from data. It’s by marrying the two, we believe, that banks can gain a competitive advantage by improving the financial lives of their customers.

Just below the biggest banks are super-regional and regional banks.

They too are fully embracing technology, although they tend to look outside their organizations for tailored solutions that will help them compete in this new era rather than develop the solutions themselves.

These banks talk about integration as a competitive advantage. They argue that they can quickly and nimbly integrate digital solutions developed elsewhere—growing without a burdensome branch network while also benefiting from the latest technologies without bearing the risk and cost of developing many of those solutions themselves. It is a way, in other words, for them to have their cake and eat it too.

U.S. Bancorp and PNC Financial Services Group fall into this category. Both are reconfiguring their delivery channels, reallocating funds that would be spent on expanding and updating their branch networks to digital investments.

In theory, this makes it possible for these banks to expand into new geographic markets with far fewer branches.

U.S. Bancorp announced recently that it will use a combination of digital channels and new branches to establish a physical retail beachhead in Charlotte, North Carolina. PNC Financial is doing the same in Dallas, Texas, among other markets.

Finally, smaller community banks are adopting off-the-shelf solutions offered by their core providers—Fidelity National Information Services (FIS), Fiserv and Jack Henry & Associates.

This approach can be both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing because these solutions have enabled upwards of 90 percent of community banks to offer mobile banking applications—table stakes nowadays in the industry. It is a curse because it further concentrates the reliance of community banks on a triumvirate of service providers.

In the final analysis, however, it is important to appreciate that smaller banks based outside of major metropolitan areas still have a leg up when it comes to tried-and-true relationship banking. Their share of loans and deposits in their local markets could even grow if the major money-center banks continue fleeing smaller markets in favor of big cities.

Smaller regional and community banks dominate small business loans in their markets—a fact that was recently underscored by LendingClub Corp.’s decision to close its small business lending unit. These loans still require local expertise—the type of expertise that resides in their hometown banks. The same is true of agriculture loans.

Banks are still banks, after all. Trust is still the top factor cited by customers in the selection process. And loans must still be underwritten in a responsible way if a bank wants to survive the irregular, but not infrequent, cycles that define our economy. The net result is that some community banks are not only surviving in this new digital era, they are thriving.

But this isn’t a call to complacency—far from it.

To compete in this new era of heightened digital competition, it is more important than ever for banks of all sizes to stay committed to the quest of constant improvement. That is why our team at Bank Director is thrilled to host bank executives and board members at the JW Marriott Nashville on May 9 and 10 for our annual Bank Board Training Forum, where we will talk about how to tackle these challenges and remain relevant in the years ahead.

Get Smart About Core Contracts



Bank leaders focus on a number of issues when M&A is on their radar—but they shouldn’t overlook the bank’s core contract. Proactively negotiating with the core provider to account for a potential sale or acquisition can make or break a future deal. In this video, Aaron Silva of Paladin fs shares his advice for negotiating these vital contracts so they align with the bank’s strategy.

  • How Core Contracts Derail Deals
  • How to Mitigate Their Impact
  • Why and How to Conduct a Merger Readiness Assessment

One Risk in M&A You Maybe Have Not Considered


core-provider-9-25-18.pngThe vast majority of middle-market community banks and credit unions will at some point explore acquiring or being acquired because M&As are one of the quickest and most effective ways a bank can scale up, expand reach, and grow. Unfortunately, many of these banks have no choice but to watch lucrative opportunities pass them by because they unwittingly agreed to grossly unfair and inequitable terms in their core and IT contracts.

Financial institutions constantly assess risk from nearly every conceivable perspective to protect shareholder value, but far too many realize too late that hidden astronomical M&A termination fees and other hidden contractual penalties render a deal totally unfeasible. Over and over again, blindsided banks are hobbled by stifled growth.

Simply stated, core and IT suppliers punish banks with excessive termination, de-conversion and conversion fees because they can get away with it. Suppliers also sneak in large clawbacks for discounts awarded in the past as an added pain for measure. Banks fall for it because they don’t know better.

Bank deals are complex procedures with the possibility of extraordinary payoff or extraordinary peril. Terms regarding potential M&As are buried deep within the pages of lengthy and convoluted core and IT supplier contracts. Suppliers are betting that arduous language within these five- to seven-year agreements deter bankers from looking too closely or fully comprehending terms and conditions they contain. Many banks are not thinking about a merger or acquisition when they originally signed those contracts. The suppliers’ bets pay off, and banks either lose the deal or are forced to pay in spades.

Termination fees core and IT suppliers secure for themselves in most contracts with community banks and credit unions border on unconscionable. Banks find themselves saddled with the prospect of paying 50, 80, or even 100 percent of the amount due to the core provider based on what would have been paid if the institution remained with that supplier for the life of the contract.

And these fees apply even if the financial institution they’re merging with or acquiring has the same core IT supplier. Even in cases where the core has virtually nothing to lose in the deal, they still demand a fat check for their “pains.” These fees are so high they can easily kill a potential deal before it even reaches the negotiating table — and they often do.

Banks Have Defendable Rights
A contract isn’t a contract unless there’s some cost for exiting it early. But there’s fair and then there’s fleecing — and let’s just say core and IT suppliers wield a pretty big pair of shears.

The reality is that more than half of all states will not tolerate these termination fees in court, provided they’re challenged by institutions. The maximum amount of liquidated damages a supplier is entitled to legally — provided they can rationalize how they were harmed — is the discounted value of remaining net profit. This might not be more than 18 to 22 percent of remaining contract value, or about one year on a five-year deal. That’s nowhere close to what is often claimed by core suppliers.

But you have to know your rights before you can demand they be respected, and a wealth of knowledge regarding the most favorable core and IT contract terms available can’t be acquired overnight. It’s taken many years for Paladin to amass proprietary core and IT supplier contract data.

Secure Fair Terms Now to Protect Deals Later
By updating your contracts before a transaction, you can speed the M&A process, protect your institution and shareholders, and prevent unforeseen deal risks. But you’ll need to come armed and ready for battle. Core and IT suppliers have enjoyed decades of manipulating the system to their advantage. Going it alone in your next contract negotiation will likely result in ending up with more of the same hidden and unfair terms. That’s how good these guys are at getting what they want from the community banks they call their “partners.”

There are experts with a proven track record of going toe-to-toe with core and IT suppliers and coming out ahead for community financial institutions. Time and again, we’ve approached the table with our clients, advocated for a fair deal, and walked away with terms that make sense for both parties — not just the suppliers.

How Switching to a Boutique Core Enhanced CNB’s Customer Experience


technology-8-15-18.pngThe bulk of the banking industry may work with the big three core providers—FIS, Fiserv or Jack Henry & Associates—but some banks are finding that smaller, boutique providers can be the better fit. That’s the case for $3 billion asset CNB Financial Corp., based in Clearfield, Pennsylvania, which made the switch from its big core provider a little more than two years ago to one that’s smaller, nimbler and more willing to collaborate with its client banks.

“We’re not a change agent by any means, but we’re constantly changing and evolving to what we believe the clients need and what our markets want, and when we talked with our prior provider, they didn’t have that same impetus,” says CNB CEO Joe Bower. “Customer experience wasn’t their focus.”

So the bank began a long and exhaustive search, spending 18 months exploring 11 different core providers, including the big three. COCC, a client-owned, cooperative core platform in Southington, Connecticut, won the contract.

The ability for CNB to be part-owners of COCC played a role in that decision: As owners, the provider’s clients have a larger voice, so advocating for a new feature is an easier process than CNB experienced with its former provider, which would demand money up front and put the request in a queue. Research and development on new features was charged by the hour. The process was slow and expensive. Enhancements to CNB’s mobile banking platform were expected to be a two-year project with the old core provider, for example.

Now, “action begins to take place almost immediately,” says Bower.

This isn’t because CNB is a bigger fish for COCC—Bower says the core provider is just as responsive to smaller client institutions with good ideas. And any new feature is then available to all COCC users, so everyone benefits.

And Bower says COCC’s proactive approach to innovation and the deployment of new technology played a role in its selection as CNB’s core. “We were looking for somebody [that] wasn’t stuck in their ways or too large to make major changes within their structure,” he says.

Perhaps because of this, COCC is open to working with startup technology providers and is nimble enough to vet them quickly. COCC directly partners with startups, and along with COCC’s own capabilities, it helps CNB get new features to market more quickly. For a technology company that’s not one of COCC’s partners, but rather the bank’s vendor, the core still coordinates integration efforts. CNB has experienced at least two fairly large integrations with outside technology firms—a commercial underwriting platform and a new peer-to-peer (P2P) payments solution.

“When new ideas surface—whether it’s from us or a small fintech startup—they’re nimble enough to take a look at it, review it and within months, as opposed to years, if we all feel like it’s a direction we ought to take, it happens, it comes aboard,” says Bowers.

Converting to COCC from its older core was more challenging in today’s 24/7 economy. CNB started fresh, converting everything—including its online and mobile banking platform—and timing this to ensure minimal disruption to customers was difficult. The core conversion began on a Friday in May 2016, and the bank and COCC only had until the following Monday to work out any major bugs. While the initial conversion went off without a hitch, dealing with smaller issues impacting a small percentage of customers at a time—problems with money transfers, incorrect statement descriptions, misapplied fees—kept bank staff busy long after the initial implementation.

“I would estimate close to 12 full months where your eye comes off the ball a bit in regards to new client acquisition, continuing to grow your assets—some of that has to take a back seat for a while,” says Bower.

Despite the conversion headaches, all-in-all Bowers says it was worth the hassle. “We’re a much better company today than we were before the transition,” he says. “Because of our ability to offer more programs, have better say in what happens with our core processor, and what services and what our client actually sees is something we [now] have some control [over].”

And the improvements aren’t just due to working with a core provider more suited to CNB’s business and strategy. Providing a better customer experience was a key driver in its decision to move to COCC, but the bank did some soul searching and realized that like its former core provider, it wasn’t thinking through the customer journey, either. So, roughly four years ago, Bowers put an executive in charge of the customer experience, promoting Leanne Kassab, who has a background in marketing, to a new position as executive vice president of customer experience and marketing. It’s position more commonly referred to as a customer experience officer, or CXO. In her role, she maps out every experience a customer could have with the bank to identify where to improve each process. She also oversees internal and external communications, and is in charge of the bank’s marketing department and call center.

Kassab also established employee task force groups to focus on different areas of the customer experience—the bank’s branches, commercial banking, new customers and existing clients—as well as employee training. These groups have been so successful that the bank’s human resources head borrowed the idea to create groups focused on the employee experience.

The bank has also changed its training programs to focus more on the client, rather than solely on operations. “We want the employees to understand the first onus on us is customer satisfaction,” says Bowers.

Bowers admits that better communication could have improved the relationship with its former provider, and his team actively works to keep the communication lines open with COCC. The bank participates in a commercial-banking roundtable to weigh in on future projects and frequently participates in user group meetings. Bowers has biannual conversations with COCC executives.

But perhaps most importantly, CNB chose to focus a junior executive on fostering a direct relationship through weekly communication with COCC. She’s newer to banking, and Bower says this fresh perspective is a benefit. She runs the bank’s e-solutions, managing what the customer sees online. Because of this, Bowers believes her perspective on new products, services and ideas inherently includes what the customer reaction could be—and she can communicate that to COCC.

Putting more effort into communicating with its core provider has created a more fruitful relationship, says Bower. “They understand where we want to be, and they understand where we think they ought to be in the world of banking today.”

Partners May Be Vendors, But Not All Vendors Are Partners


partnership-6-1-18.pngTechnology companies may call themselves partners to the banking industry, but for the bankers themselves, most of these firms are just vendors. There’s a big difference in that particular bit of nomenclature, and bankers participating in a roundtable discussion held in advance of the 2018 FinXTech Annual Summit, co-hosted by Bank Director and Promontory Interfinancial Network, had a lot to say about the true nature of partnerships. It’s all about the relationship.

“We want [a partner] that’s bringing insights and dialogue and teaching us, and we’re teaching them and working together on different things,” said Sara Rountree, senior vice president in charge of digital strategy at Union Bankshares Corp., headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, with $13 billion in assets. She also wants to know about the startup’s infrastructure and vision for its own future. “That tells [us] a lot about where they’re going to go, and how they can be agile and flexible in the future as well.”

While the banking industry buys products and services from a multitude of technology vendors to do things such as enhance their mobile banking product, create a more efficient back office or better comply with regulations, the bankers participating in the roundtable discussion said that partners are companies they can collaborate with. Both companies can learn from one another, and the bank feels it has more of a say in the development of services.

Banks have to put work in to determine which relationships will be an appropriate strategic and cultural fit. That starts with evaluating a potential provider’s capabilities compared to the bank’s own requirements and determining the risks of doing business with the company. “It’s really keeping focused on what you have the resources to handle and gathering enough information, and then getting the right bankers at the table” to determine what’s best for the bank, said Mark Christian, executive vice president, operations and systems at Beverly Hills, California-based PacWest Bancorp, with $24 billion in assets.

And it’s essential to meet with the potential provider’s team. “It’s making sure that company is aligned to how we’re thinking about things, not just this next step of the one product, but how are you going to evolve that and how does that align with what we’re focused on,” said Travis Engebretsen, vice president of strategy at Stuart, Florida-based Seacoast Bank, with $5.9 billion in assets.

Trusting a provider to provide direct support to the bank’s customers is another sign of a true partner, according Richard Greslick, the chief operating officer at Clearfield, Pennsylvania-based CNB Financial Corp., with $2.9 billion in assets. The bank evaluates a provider’s level of support during the vetting process. “We want to make sure they’re carrying the brand like we would,” he said.

Being a partner means that the technology company is more responsive to the bank’s needs, but it also requires more hand-holding on the part of the bank, especially if the partner is a young company that may not fully understand the regulatory constraints facing the banking industry. However, this does provide the bank with an opportunity to influence the company’s product.

The banking industry is highly reliant on established core providers, but the sizeable core providers—Fiserv, FIS and Jack Henry & Associates—serve too many customers for a bank to have a significant voice in the products each core offers and therefore, to be seen as a true partner to their clients.

The smaller core providers can be more of a partner, at least if the bank is a big-enough fish. CNB selected COCC as its new core provider almost three years ago and integrated its new core over a two-year period. The bank is COCC’s first client in Pennsylvania and one of its larger client banks, and its representatives discuss issues monthly over the phone with the bank’s department heads.

Whether a company is a partner or a vendor, the result is new technology for the bank, and the bankers interviewed at the FinXTech Annual Summit agreed that getting employees—and by extension, customers—to use the technology poses a significant challenge.

In response, Seacoast has shifted its focus from project management to change management. This isn’t just a shift in classification, according to Engebretsen. Instead of just focusing on launching the technology, the change management team also ensures that associates understand why the new technology was needed, how it will impact employees and how employees will be trained.

To put it simply, transformation is less about technology and more about people. “It has to be part of the company culture. People need to think differently,” said Rountree.