Archived Story

Ellendale bank keeps ahead of technology

Published 11:08am Tuesday, March 26, 2013

A family-owned business that started in Waseca in 1874 and added locations in Ellendale and Hope, too, is making sure to keep up with its bigger competitors by staying up to date with new technologies.

First National Bank’s Ellendale branch is at 119 W. Fifth Ave. --Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune
First National Bank’s Ellendale branch is at 119 W. Fifth Ave. –Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

According to Megan Lynch, the marketing director at First National Bank, the bank’s goal is to stay relevant to its customers and that means being able to provide the products and services that are important to them. Often, that means staying updated on technology.

“Technology is something we’ve always pushed,” said Tom Sankovitz, chief financial officer and one of the bank owners. “We’ve been somewhat early adapters depending on how comfortable we are with the security measures.”

Currently, First National Bank offers online banking and bill pay so customers can do their banking 24 hours a day, seven days a week on a computer or on a mobile device. The bank also offers telephone banking, remote deposit, e-statements and email and text alerts.

To decide what new technologies to implement, Sankovitz said the bank asks its boards, customers and employees for their input. Sometimes the employees do test runs with the new products to see what they are really like.

“We try to gather as many resources as we can to create and continue to run our business,” Sankovitz said.

But the bank doesn’t always jump on board with a new technology immediately.

“We want to make sure information is safe and secure,” Lynch said. “We make sure our homework is done before we introduce something to the customers.”

One of those products that concern the bank is a new technology that lets people take pictures of a check and send it in to the bank. Sankovitz said not only is it a security risk that needs to be looked at, but the program puts technology ahead of rules so First National Bank waits for those issues to be “ironed out.”

Another advantage to not using a product as soon as it’s first released is that other vendors have a chance to develop, too. When that happens, they have to compete and the cost goes down.

“That’s what helps the community banks and smaller banks purchase products,” Sankovitz said. “Years ago that might have taken several years. Now it could be three or four months to have competitors in the market.”

New technology isn’t cheap, but First National Bank is more concerned about providing to its customers.

“Technology does cost money like anything you buy,” Sankovitz said. “It’s the cost of doing business.”

Sankovitz said a typical process for installing new products takes about three to six months from the time of vendor review to the time of releasing it to the customers.

Something the bank’s boards discuss when reviewing vendors and new products is how many of its customers will take advantage of the product.

“I’m always amazed at how many people sign up,” Sankovitz said. “Even the older generation will adapt — people, I guess, that I didn’t anticipate.”