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.

By 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

The Value of Company Intranets


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The popularity of digital channels is placing increased pressure on bank branches to maximize every opportunity to acquire, engage and retain customers. Branches are evolving away from segmented teller lines and personal bankers to single points of contact that can facilitate any customer request. Key to this evolution is the presence of an intranet, which can be thought of as a centralized workflow that provides quick access to information, something that does not exist in most branches today.

By leveraging an employee intranet to create universal bankers, banks can successfully transition from a passive environment to one that drives engagement, reinforces the brand and establishes a new standard in service.

“A centralized system makes the process smoother, as the employees can locate the information they need and provide it quickly to the customers,” says Judy Price, vice president and senior operations and compliance officer at Carolina Alliance Bank. “When customers come into the bank, we want to quickly address their needs and make the experience enjoyable. A bank’s ability to continue growing is a direct byproduct of its ability to prioritize serving and engaging customers.” Combining the roles of a traditional teller and personal banker means that the employee is knowledgeable enough to serve anywhere in the branch instead of being confined to a single location. This role removes silos and functions across multiple tasks, such as facilitating transactions, opening new accounts, completing loan applications and managing the essential business of general customer service.

Intranets have other benefits as well. A single repository of information is essential to educating employees on cross-departmental responsibilities. For management, an intranet system can generate reports weekly, monthly or as needed to track employees that have completed training and also communicate if someone has failed to satisfy any requirements. Depending on the size of your financial institution, the degrees of universal function likely vary. A universal banker must be able to provide information, forms, policy and procedures on any product that the bank offers. To do so, access to a system-wide exchange of information must be available, providing insights into customer requests and ensuring that each one has been directed to the most appropriate person, tracked and completed in the timeliest manner possible.

An intranet is an extremely effective channel for communicating internal news, brochures and documents and posting announcements. This information can include content that is generated by others in the organization as well. Sue Besselievre, vice president of Kitsap Bank, says “Our site is so engaging now that our top executives are regularly producing company-wide blogs and fresh content for our employees.” An employee can access any system needed and stay up to speed on important information, while also maintaining a channel of communication with management. Consider a financial institution that is spread across multiple states with many locations; the ability to eliminate the duplication and data redundancy ensures that everyone is seeing the same information, sparing any confusion and subsequent time spent trying to remedy the situation.

No bank or credit union will be successful without demonstrating its respective prioritization to serve customers or members. Intranets are not new, but it is a proven technology and making an investment in this capability ensures that a financial institution presents its brand accurately, while managing every channel and making sure customers can interact at their preferred point of contact with ease.