In this special episode, Sean and Gina welcome back Ryan Kilpatrick, Executive Vice President and Chief Brand and Communications Officer for Origin Bank to discuss his ideas on forming relationships with customers and understanding how they want to bank. Specifically, he addresses meeting the moment during COVID and why he believes that banking can help transform people’s lives.
Intro: This is Believe in Banking, a podcast series for decision-makers, influencers, and leaders. Featuring experts taking on the financial industry’s most pressing issues with insight and empathy. The podcast features information and conversations designed to enlighten and empower. Here are your Believe in Banking hosts, Sean Keathley and Gina Bleedorn.
Sean Keathley:Welcome to our Believe in Banking podcast. I am Sean Keathley, President and CEO at Adrenaline.
Gina Bleedorn: I am Gina Bleedorn, Chief Experience Officer at Adrenaline.
Sean Keathley: The last episode was so exciting. It really underscores the importance of hearing from these bankers firsthand. As we were going through the podcast, we were already thinking we’re going to need more time with Ryan. I’m really excited to bring Ryan back and continue this discussion. It’s going to be another great episode with Mr. Ryan Kilpatrick.
Gina Bleedorn: I really think that solidarity from other bankers, dealing with the same kinds of challenges. Through your words Ryan, “To bring things to light, in a way that has a lot more meaning than just us.” As outside experts talking about these challenges you are in there. You’re in the trenches and people will really want to hear what you have to say.
Ryan Kilpatrick: Thank you so much. Thanks for having me.
Sean Keathley: Ryan, you talk about relationship banking and you mentioned a word that we’ve really been circling and underlining that’s, trust. I want you to think about it in terms of delivering in two different ways. One, I want you to think about it across markets. Maybe give me an example of a business owner in Ruston and then a client in Dallas Fort Worth. They don’t want you to give here by the podcast and update on current status. Lobbies open by appointment, drive ups. Kind of two ideas there. First, maybe even pre-COVID. The idea of relationship banking across markets. Then just real time, if there’s any examples. I can imagine, maybe an upset customer. Anybody that’s not been as reasonable through all the inconvenience that people have. Take that away.
Ryan Kilpatrick: Yes. As I’ve said, relationship banking is so critical to who we are. That can mean different things in different markets. I think for us, we spend a lot of time about the customer experience and certainly that’s a buzz word. I think in our industry right now it’s this concept of customer experience. But at the end of the day, it’s really forming a relationship with the customer. Then in turn, understanding how they want to bank. Take a more rural market like Ruston. I think we have 45,000 people in our parish. Louisiana is a little different. We have parishes instead of counties, but you know, you can get around Ruston-Lincoln parish in 10 minutes easily. A customer may want to come into the bank, not may. They usually do. They want to come in and see their banker.
Ryan Kilpatrick: I have an example of a customer just north of our financial center here in Ruston, who leaves their office. They come down to the bank five minutes. They sign their papers and they’re back in their office, conducting their business. That can look different in DFW, where clearly there’s more people. It’s a bigger place. For us, it’s understanding how they want to bank. That may be the banker going to them. It might be being done through remote signing. So many different ways where we’re able to use technology, but it always comes back to the relationship. How we’re able to understand how they want to bank. I think pre-COVID, I think post COVID, that’s so critical. Understanding your customers and understand that it’s not a one size fits all approach. If we’re going to be successful in banking, you’ve got to understand fully how that client wants to bank. That’s been something that we’ve been extremely focused on.
Sean Keathley: Talk about balancing high touch. That’s what you’re talking about.
Ryan Kilpatrick: Yes.
Sean Keathley: It’s bespoke, it’s not the same. You’re not even going to have the same clientele across similar markets. I know you guys think that way, but how does high touch bespoke relationship banking work, when you’re social distancing? That’s probably a concept that is aggravated some people and just give an example of the Origin way. How do you deal with people with high stress? Disconnected from those human connections they crave.
Ryan Kilpatrick: Yes and you asked earlier. I don’t think I answered the question in terms of how we’re operating. There’s this balance between safety and customer experience. When this whole thing started, safety is just so critical. Keeping your people healthy and safe. Our drive throughs, have continued to remain open. Our lobbies are not technically closed, but they are open to appointment. We’re asking our customers to call. Email their banker if they really need to get in and can’t do their business through the drive through or through their mobile device or through their desktop. We had here recently, it was probably last week or so. I got an email from a customer. They were frustrated like so many people are. Like, “I want to get into the bank. Why can’t I get into the bank? I’m so frustrated. I drive by Lowe’s and there’s a thousand people there.” I got this email. I actually was on vacation, but I picked up the phone and called the customer immediately. He had gotten my “Out of office” reply. So, he knew that I was out.
Ryan Kilpatrick: But you know, Drake’s always said, “If you’ve got a customer that’s upset, that’s your time to turn them into a customer for life.” Any altercation or any type of conflict that we deal with the customer. Our people understand that concept. It comes down to taking the negative and turn it into a positive. We had a conversation and I told him, “The health and safety of our employees and our customers is critical.” If you need to get in the bank, all you got to do is call me or call one of your bankers and we can get you in if that’s what you need to do. It’s kind of back to one of our core values, innovative, flexible, and forward thinking. It’s that flexibleness in this situation where we met a customer’s need. Explain the situation. Look, it comes back to communication, and brand and communication are just so linked.
Ryan Kilpatrick: Communication is the extension of the brand. If you can’t communicate that clearly, you’re doing your brand a disservice. When the two can be so interwoven, I think that’s where you have success. Customer say that. Gina on your last podcast, I do listen to your podcast. You referenced the book, “The Brand Gap” by Neumeier. You talked about that gut feeling. Well, the gut feeling comes down to all the different channels that a consumer is able to ingest the brand. Whether that’s a billboard, a print ad, an online ad, a social media post, or a phone call. All of them are so important. In terms of Sean, you asked the question, “How have we taken this concept of relationship banking, and applied it to this new world that we’re living in. With social distancing and separation?”
Ryan Kilpatrick: I mean, it’s being creative. A lot of it is going back old school. I referenced the simplicity of phone calls. There’s a lot more phone calls taking place now. There’s handwritten letters that are being delivered to customers. Just to remind them, “Hey, we’re here for you keeping social distance.” Obviously we’ve met customers in the parking lot. Signed loan documents across the hood of the truck.
Sean Keathley: That was good.
Gina Bleedorn: I have tears. It’s those exact type of actions that people will never forget. When you were there for people in their time of need especially, that sticks with them. They will be forever loyal to you, to Origin. Capitalizing on those relationship. Things that you’ve always done that you are now especially doing, is how you continue to not be as relevant as you were to customers and potential new ones, but even more relevant. That’s the heart of community banking and what you have to offer in general.
Ryan Kilpatrick: It’s just not getting discouraged. It’s looking for ways to be leaders and to be impactful to customers. That’s something we’ve tried to do.
Gina Bleedorn: Given everything that’s happened and everything. We don’t know what’s going to happen. What do you think this all means for the future of banking, but the future of Origin? What do you think we’re going to see? What do you think Origin’s going to have to do in the new world of March 125th that may go on for another 125 or more days?
Ryan Kilpatrick: Yes. Well, we hope that’s not the case. But look, I think anybody who’s in a leadership position, whether it’s leading a bank or leading any company. It’s examining where we are and how we can be more efficient certainly. But how we can be more impactful and how we navigate through these times.
Ryan Kilpatrick: You know, I have conversations with people in the industry and certainly we have them internally about how does this change the way that our customers are going to bank. We do so much research into data and understanding our customer behaviors. Certainly this is the case probably with every bank and credit union out there. They’re saying, “I would imagine a higher flux of customers using their mobile device or their desktop to do banking.” We all know that’s critically important. I think that gets accelerated substantially through this time, but also moving forward. What may have been to be, in two to five years for many bank executives, as they consider investing in technology. How do they weave that into their normal business model that has to be accelerated. We’ve been investing in those channels. We’ll continue to do so, but I think that’s where it’s critical and it comes back to our vision statement that I spoke to earlier. It’s tying in the relationship aspect of being a trusted advisor with the technology to create that experience.
Ryan Kilpatrick: For us, it’s digging deep into ways that we can be impactful from a technology standpoint. We’ve got a great team who’s really focused on that, within our brand group. Cory LeBlanc, who’s our chief digital and innovation officer. That’s really his main role, is to go out and find new technology that can be impactful to customers. He works with our operations teams, our marketing teams and our IT group led by Josh Hamot. It’s that group of people who are going out there to try to find the innovative products that we need to be incorporating into our business.
Sean Keathley: A lot of people worry about transactions declining. That maybe the branch usefulness is changing and losing that connectivity to the customer. Maybe that is the fear if they don’t come in and transact with you. I just think the foundation of the origin approach is guarded against that.
Sean Keathley: You’re constantly creating communications. You’re talking, you’re writing, you’re calling. You could even see that transition of fewer transactions in the branch But you’re not losing those touch points. You know, they’re going to come see you and that moment of need. I think that’s what’s so radically different about how Origin has maybe better prepared themselves to really head on head at unforeseen pandemic. Which we’ve all been living for the last four or five months.
Ryan Kilpatrick: Yes, that’s exactly Ryan. You know, if you think about it, the amount of money that the larger mega banks are putting into technology. If it becomes just about technology, that is a difficult…That’s a difficult battle to win. You have to tie the relationship aspect of the business, to the technology. Because if it’s just technology, then it becomes more complicated. I’m not saying that it can’t be accomplished, but you have to tie the relationship aspect of it too.
Ryan Kilpatrick: I mean, you think about it. All of us, we teach a brand class to the new hires that come in. It’s about brand, it’s about customer experience. I ask how many people in the room have shopped at Amazon over the past 30 days. And of course, 95% of the hands in the room get raised. You know consumers right now, they don’t change their feel or their desire. Their client experience based on coming to a bank versus doing business with say, Amazon. Amazon makes it easy. We’ve got to make it easy too. But we also have to tie the relationship aspect of our business, of who we are with that technology. It’s always going to be a challenge. But you know, we’re staying on it and trying to improve every day.
Sean Keathley: How do you talk a bunch of guys that love LA tech to build a branch in Oxford, Mississippi?
Ryan Kilpatrick: Yes. They started in Ruston obviously, which is the home of Louisiana tech. I’m a tech grad, and as is Drake. Now Lance is an old MIS grad. So, that may explain a few things.
Sean Keathley: [crosstalk 00:13:59] CEO when that design started. I don’t know if that was a coincidence or not.
Ryan Kilpatrick: No. But I’ll tell you as is the case, and kind of coming back to a lot of what we talked about. It comes back to people. We had an opportunity to hire a couple of people up there who had deep relationships in that market. We’ve been opened there and had been successful there. It speaks to our strategy about people, relationships, culture, as the foundation of who we are. We implemented that, in that North Mississippi market, and they’re doing a great job.
Sean Keathley: We talked about that Ryan. That when you grow it largely it’s around good people and markets that have opportunity. Then once you do, what’s going to be your commitment to those neighborhoods that you mean business? I think that you’re now backing those bankers up that have relationships. You’re building a new location. It’s going to be beautiful. And it’s going to show you’re serious about being in the market. There’s a new football coach. You might even win… next year. Although we had a bad Arkansas versus Ole Miss last year that not go well for me. What we’ve been talking about, six podcasts, our onstage speaking. Take future branches for instance, which has become the financial industry’s biggest event about the role of the branch and how people are thinking about balancing digital and physical and their network of locations.
Sean Keathley: We’ve presented four years in a row. Each year to a bigger and bigger crowd. In mid-July of 2020, the biggest crowd we’ve ever presented to, was all done virtually. But you guys listen if we’re all adapting, I really think you may be our favorite client. Although this is being recorded. I may have said that to somebody else before. But you guys,… you really are. You were tradition. Can’t change your name? But we have to, it doesn’t match who we are. You know small communities, that’s who we are. We have to go find growth markets. You know, bespoke banking is different when there’s 45,000 people, 6 million people. I love this notion as well of regional community bank. I mean, it is how you’re going to compete and win, but you guys are showing you can do it in scale and grow and serve more people. It’s all the things you’ve talked about. Just amazing.
Gina Bleedorn: Always evolving from the inside out, was the recurring thematic of the Origin brand or at the time the community trust brand. When we first engaged, unique from within became the positioning. The brand positioning statement that we set out to build the brand around and everything that we considered or looked at. From names to logos, to communications, to stationary designs, we went back to that brand positioning. Is this conveying unique from within and doing justice to how unique we are inside? That was the golden thread that ran through all that is Origin and still does today.
Ryan Kilpatrick: Well, it does come down to people. Obviously, when we talk about that, most of the time you’re referring to internal. Your internal people, but look, we’ve got outstanding partners. I mean, you all have been so helpful.
Ryan Kilpatrick: Adrenaline has been so helpful to us. Obviously through the name change, but continuing that relationship has been important for us as is the case with so many different partners that we have. I think it’s aligning yourself with the right people internally. Hiring the right people. But it also comes down to knowing who to partner with and knowing who can make you successful. We’ve been fortunate to be able to work with you guys and look forward to many years to come in that endeavor.
Gina Bleedorn: When this pandemic all started to go down and we got our heads together over here in Adrenaline, and just tried desperately and fervently to figure out how do we help? How do we be the partner? We have always wanted to be the best version of that to all of the clients that we serve, that we love. That is what led Believe in Banking, coming into existence.
Gina Bleedorn: We wanted to, and still want to be truly a partner that helps advanced the cause of all the clients that we serve. We hope that clients like you Ryan, believed that about us. That we have lifelong friendships and work relationships where we are always bringing something to the table for you to help clients advanced. That was our …to help the industry advanced. That was the purpose behind Believe in Banking.
Sean Keathley: We’ve been working on this Believe in Banking. It was Gina’s idea and her and the team are putting just a tremendous amount of effort in it.
Gina Bleedorn: A whole team’s idea.
Sean Keathley: It’s not about –
Gina Bleedorn: I mean it, it just wasn’t yours, but it was.
Sean Keathley: Believe in Banking is not about Adrenaline. It’s about our real internal belief. That banking is essential and does good. So can you just talk to us maybe kind of go up 30,000 feet and you know, there’s hundreds of community banks. Is it now more than ever important for community banks to serve those communities and impact those neighborhoods and lives? Don’t you think that with the right strategy community banks are in the right position to do so?
Ryan Kilpatrick: Definitely. I think I love the concept of Believe in Banking. You know, after the 0809 financial crisis, bankers had a negative connotation. To them we obviously better understood why we were in the mess we were in. Community banks weren’t involved in those types of things. But, it still I think impacted community bankers psyche. But you know, I think the pride that we should have as community bankers, who are there for our customers, who are there for communities. Lance Hall, our President, I think has the best analogy or the best story as it relates to what we do.
Ryan Kilpatrick: I’ve mentioned new hire culture day. We talked about the experience and we get those new employees to tell us about what brands, what experiences stand out to them. Every class, one of the employees says Chick-fil-A. As well they should Chick-fil-A creates an incredible experienced for their guests. Lance points out Chick-fil-A sells, a piece of chicken with two pickles in between a bun. But yet Chick-fil-A gets mentioned in every class that we do.
Sean Keathley: Ryan, speaking of Chick-fil-A. I actually highlighted that company in one of our episodes of “Ask an expert.” We’ve been watching very closely. It’s a strong brand here in Atlanta that has long thought about the power of people being their unique thing that distinguishes them. Even though they’re in the commodity business, it really is the culture of their individuals. And so take for an example their drive throughs are busier than ever.
Sean Keathley: Now that people were thinking that’s one of the safest ways to get meals. In the south where it’s hot, you pull up to a Chick-fil-A and you see rows of cars, that they have employees under umbrellas with fans. With handheld devices, taking orders that allow them to accelerate the wait time. It’s not only a commitment to their customer and their deep understanding and their business. The value of your time being one of the most precious things. It’s not executed at the expense of the employee experience because their employees are key to what they’re doing. Not to mention their commitment to technology and the mobile app. Having people pre-order and pulling a parking space in a smiling face, walks out with your order. So Chick-fil-A is a shining example of a culture that is surviving through challenging times by pivoting. Just imagine if that can be so successful with the chicken sandwich, think about the power of a strategy like that with financial institution.
Ryan Kilpatrick: They’ve tapped into something. All they’re doing is selling nuggets and chicken sandwiches, but people love them. As bankers, we’re helping people start businesses. We’re helping people get into their first home. We’re helping individuals, maybe who have gone through tough times and need additional capital to be able to survive. You think about that as compared to a cup of coffee in Starbucks case or a chicken sandwich in Chick-fil-A’s case. We have so much opportunity based on not necessarily the products we’re selling, but the way that we can transform an individual or a company by being trusted advisors to them. By setting up and establishing just dynamic relationships. That’s a business I think that a banker should be proud to be in. To know that we can have that type of impact. I think now, as we deal with the pandemic and a crisis, our customers need us more than ever. Our communities need us more than ever.
Ryan Kilpatrick: I know that there’s so many banks out there across the country who are doing the hard work to be there for their customers and be there for their community. I think there’s a bright future for community banks. If we’re flexible. If we understand the importance of technology and relationships being interlinked. But also sticking to the foundational values that for instance, with Origin, make us unique. Have served us for over a century and hopefully a century more.
Sean Keathley: Your employees and your customers know why you do it. I think that’s what they believe in. I was an executive enterprise Rent-A-Car for about eight years and Jack Taylor, the founder, an incredible human being. One of the biggest private companies in the US, so much success. But I’ll never forget what I learned in the orientation.
Sean Keathley: That was as a manager, if you focus on your customer and your employee, the profit will follow. But don’t focus on profit. I just think about that as you run that bank and you guys go community. That one-on-one experience you’re building and the time and expense and communication. Brand classes, all the things you can do, it’s clearly working as you guys are scaling and enjoying the success of the hard work and in the most difficult times ever. It’s absolutely still applying in terms of a business strategy.
Ryan Kilpatrick: I’m sorry if I’m yapping too much.
Sean Keathley: Pure gold. We could have done a two-hour podcast.
Gina Bleedorn: This podcast is going to have to be like an hour, but you were talking to this. So Ryan, why do you believe in banking?
Ryan Kilpatrick: It comes down to people and it comes down to relationships. I feel like we’ve talked about that a lot during this podcast. I think it’s so important to banking. It’s more than transactions. It’s about helping transform people’s lives. That’s why I think it’s important. I mean banking is, Sean mentioned that earlier about being “essential.” I mean if you’re good at what you do in terms of understanding why you’re doing it. For us, our purpose, Origin bank’s core purpose is to enrich the lives of people in our community. The word enrich means to make fuller more meaningful and more rewarding.
Ryan Kilpatrick: If we do those things’ day in and day out, the impact that we can have on our customers and communities is just incredible. I think now more than ever as we deal with higher unemployment. As we deal with people who are struggling, as we see social unrest taking place and what I would refer to as division within the country. It’s sad to see, but I think it is who we are as people. There’s a hope and I think a desire for people to be good to each other. Certainly in our business as a banker, that’s why we come to work every day. It’s to make peoples’ lives more rewarding and more fulfilling. We have such an opportunity to do that.
Gina Bleedorn: That is beautiful. Beautifully said Ryan. What a pure outlook about what you are really trying to do. What you’ve always been trying to do and what it means now in the context of the challenges that we’re all living through in these unprecedented times.
Sean Keathley: Ryan, I can’t think of a better way than wrap on what you just said. Thank you so much for taking precious time. I know you are so busy. The bank’s growing and prospering. You got those three boys at home and lot going on. This was just everything we thought it would be. I can assure you, our listeners really enjoyed hearing it firsthand. So truly thank you for the time you spent with us today.
Ryan Kilpatrick: Sean and Gina, thank you all. I treasure our relationship and thank you for the partnership that we’ve had. It’s become more personal than just a business partnership. I’ve enjoyed the conversation. I feel like we could probably talk for hours and hours on this stuff. Thank you all for what you all are doing. I think this concept of Believe in Banking is so important and you all are helping tell that story. As a banker, I’m extremely thankful and appreciative that you all are doing it and look forward to more conversations in the future.
Gina Bleedorn: Thank you, Ryan. Truly, you are best in class as a person and as a banker. And so is your bank. Thank you for being a partner and a friend and taking the time to be here with us today. I know a lot of people will appreciate your words.
Outro: You’ve been listening to Believe in Banking. A podcast series created to empower decision makers, influencers, and industry leaders in financial services. Be sure to also join us on our flagship site, believeinbanking.com.