BankSouth Case Study: Customer-centricity is Key

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One gets the distinct feeling that BankSouth, based in Greensboro, Ga., truly abides by its tagline: If you ran a bank, you’d run it like this.

The $660 million bank, with six branches and 120 employees across Georgia, is deeply rooted in the communities it serves, not only providing service-oriented banking solutions, but also supporting many local businesses and charities. In fact, its BankSouth Foundation provides college opportunities for area youth.

The bank even holds the prestigious honor of being recognized annually by ICBA as one of the nation’s top performing community banks.

So when BankSouth’s leaders gradually realized that their core platform—in place since the late 1980s—no longer served its customers’ growing needs, they knew they needed to replace it. The legacy core technology delivered only marginal integration, along with inefficient and manual processes, which handicapped the bank’s ability to capitalize on new market opportunities. 

“It was a core that really had its roots in the deposit area, not the lending area. And it was very difficult to bolt [other vendors’] products onto it,” says David Cowles, BankSouth’s executive vice president and chief operations officer. “So it really limited what we could offer to our customers.” 

That notion didn’t sit well at all with the bank’s leadership, who live and breathe by exceptional service. 

“Our focus is increasing the customer experience … we call it customer-centricity,” Cowles says. “When we look at a new product or service, or even internal procedures, the first thing we look at is how it’s going to help our customers. How it’s going to make their banking easier, and a better experience. Secondly, we look at gaining bank efficiencies.” 

Further, the existing core couldn’t handle a large loan servicing portfolio, an area the bank, which also runs a mortgage company, is looking to expand. 

“Part of our enterprise strategy is gaining customers through our mortgage company. If somebody comes in and has a great experience with the mortgage company, you would like to bank them as well,” Cowles says. “But with these really slick online deposit origination or loan origination platforms … to get that integrated into our former core was impossible.” 

Most importantly, BankSouth’s customers wanted a user-friendly online account-opening solution, and a digital banking experience that could hold up to their growing “Amazon” expectations.

A Significant Level of Trust

Indeed, the challenge ahead seemed daunting. Luckily, Cowles had maintained a long-standing working relationship with one of the principals of Arriba Advisors. When she learned of BankSouth’s project needs, she arranged a meeting with Cowles that included the Arriba team. 

“There was a significant level of trust we had with one of the Arriba team members, and it did not take long for their full team to earn our complete trust,” Cowles says, adding he knew right away that Arriba was up to the hefty task. “We needed to evaluate and retool the entire infrastructure of the bank, and we were fortunate to find Arriba, a company with enterprise-level specialization across every business line of the bank. Other consulting firms we evaluated could not bring that same level of sophistication and specialization.” 

After analyzing BankSouth’s list of criteria, which included an open architecture platform that would allow the bank to integrate best-in-class ancillary solutions, Arriba sent out RFPs and arranged demonstrations with three core processors. “The combined Arriba and BankSouth teams invested significant time preparing the vendors to deliver a focused RFP response and onsite presentation targeting the bank’s strategic goals that resulted in several vendors “knocking it out of the park”. One of those vendors ultimately won our business.“