By NASH NUNNERY
In the so-called ‘new age’ of banking, the shift in attention to tech-focused content is a clear indication that bankers are taking technology more seriously than they ever have.
Count long-time Chief Executive Officer William A. “Bill” Ray in that number.
“To keep up with technology in banking today, you have to expose yourself to what’s out there and study it because there is so much to choose from,” said Ray, who has served as the bank’s top officer since 1986. “Then, you have to invest in what you believe are the best technologies for your customers, employees and your systems.
“We have made that a major initiative at BankPlus”.
According to Ray, BankPlus offers the number one rated mobile banking app available in the app stores. Additionally, the bank has invested in interactive teller machines (ITMs), which feature a live teller.
According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, digital banking users have increased from 26 percent to 51 percent between 2012 and 2017. This trend indicates that many consumers are interacting with financial institutions through digital means, including desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones.
“We were one of the first banks in Mississippi to offer mobile deposit and we’ll be offering Zelle person-to-person payments soon,” he said. “Our mobile alerts app can be customized to send information to when your debit card is used in certain ways and allows you to turn your card on and off in an instant.”
Make no mistake, BankPlus’ roots remain firmly entrenched in customer service and community involvement. Case in point – the bank still offers 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. service hours in many locations.
“Supporting our communities is one of the most important things we do as an organization,” said Ray, an Oxford native. “We define our core purpose with this statement: ‘We enrich lives and build stronger communities’. BankPlus achieves this through our banking business, but we also strengthen communities through our charitable giving and volunteer efforts.
“It does help our brand and name recognition efforts but more importantly, we believe it is the right thing to do.”
The origins of BankPlus began in 1909 as Citizens Bank & Trust in the Mississippi Delta town of Belzoni. The name was changed in 1994 to reflect the bank’s commitment to customers, employees and communities, Ray said.
Currently, BankPlus boasts approximately $3 billion in total assets, 55 locations and 734 employees.
The BankPlus work culture also is a source of pride within the organization and reflected by the bank being voted one of the best banks to work for in the country for the past seven years by industry publication American Banker. The award is based on surveys that go to employees at every level of the bank.
“As with our customer experience, we try to differentiate ourselves to our employees as well,” said Rob Armour, the bank’s chief marketing and product development officer. “We offer a comprehensive wellness program, ongoing education opportunities, a great 401(k) plan, a robust incentive program, anniversary days off for vacation and many other perks and programs to all employees.”
Asked about possible expansion into other markets, Ray said the bank is open to the idea.
“We are always looking for growth opportunities, whether they be organic or through acquisitions,” he said. “BankPlus is interested in expansion in Mississippi and surrounding states. And, we are always trying to grow our wealth management and mortgage divisions, as well.”
Last month, BankPlus parent company BancPlus Corp acquired State Bank & Trust, pending approval in the first quarter of 2020. Ray cited the acquisition as a good example of creating growth in multiple ways.
“BankPlus will be able to bring our unique brand of banking to new markets in Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana. Secondly, State Bank & Trust will be able to offer their customers a full suite of wealth management and mortgage services they have not had before,” he said. “We’re really excited because both banks have a 100-plus year history of commitment to the communities where we operate, and share a similar internal culture of teamwork and customer service.”
The bank’s famous slogan, ‘It’s more than a name. It’s a promise’, still resonates today, Ray said.
“It’s our promise to add value, convenience and be viewed as much more than a typical bank by our customers,” he added.
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