How to Turn Around a Struggling Community Bank: Jill Castilla, CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond
Last updated: March 11, 2020
Jill Castilla, the 2017 ABA Community Banker of the Year, joins us to talk about how she turned around a struggling bank through creating goodness in her community, how to implement innovative social media practices, why your ego is not your amigo, and how she is positioning her institution to be relevant for its next 110 years.
Top 5 Takeaways:
- When you’re doing a turnaround, it’s darkest just before dawn. Those dark periods help you to find the light.
- When you look at your institution with the long view, certain decisions, like closing branches, become a lot easier.
- Your social capital matters, and it may even help you through through a reputational downturn.
- Humility is not natural for any of us, but “your ego is not your amigo.”
- Numbers help you measure progress, but you won’t find joy in numbers. You’ll find joy when can connect with people and their purpose.
Read the full transcript below:
Cameron Madill: Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Remarkable Credit Union podcast. Each episode, we being on expert guests from inside and outside of the industry, for conversations about innovation. Our goal is to challenge your preconceptions about business as usual, and provide you with actual takeaways. Today’s big question: what is a bank or credit union’s responsibility to the community it serves, and how can community development efforts help your bottom line?
Cameron Madill: Today I’m very excited to welcome Jill Castilla. Jill is the president and CEO of Citizens Bank of Edmond, and Jill has a plethora of awards she has won, so I’m only gonna read off some of them. But among others, she was the 2017 AVA Community Banker of the Year. She’s been named as one of the most innovative CEOs in banking, one of the most admired CEOs in Oklahoma, and for four years in a row she’s been one of the 25 most powerful women in banking.
Cameron Madill: Jill, thank you for joining us today.
Jill Castilla: Hey, it’s great to be here.
Cameron Madill: So, as I understand it, Citizens Bank of Edmond did not always have a great reputation. Can you paint a little bit of a picture of the general state of affairs when you first took over?
Jill Castilla: Yeah sure. Citizens Bank of Edmond started in 1901, and it really was loved by the community for decades. In 2009, it ran into some difficulties. It was the financial crisis, it was full heat of it was in effect, but Oklahoma was pretty shielded from that. There are very few troubled institutions in our geography. But Citizens Bank of Edmond, we had grown really quickly, our internal systems hadn’t kept up with the pace of the growth or complexity of the bank, and so there started to be some breakdowns whenever the economy started eroding a little bit. I had been at the bank 20 years ago and was at a bank in northern Minnesota, and my family has some ownership in the bank, and when they had run an examination and it went poorly, I was asked to come back to help lead the turnaround of the bank.
Jill Castilla: They had had traditional problems in the credit department, just not adhering to draw procedures and proper credit administration, and the approach to the bank as far as what type of loans they would do was pretty liberal at that time. So when I came in, even though the bank was in trouble, the reputation was actually still pretty good. They had a management team that had been here for 40+ years, and so it was still really loved by the community. It wasn’t really public that there were problems occurring. Then when I came in, I found that it wasn’t just the credit issues, it was operationally the bank had had some significant problems, and we had some fraud that was occurring and just some unethical behavior. I thought I was coming into a family of people that I worked with previously and what I found was that I was the enemy, kind of from day one.
Jill Castilla: We had to address a lot of issues that caused harm internally in the bank, and as a result the perception of the community became very negative because they saw people leaving the bank that were really loved by the community and had built up the institution to where it was at that time. So I went across the street after being at the bank for a couple months and got my hair cut, and the lady cutting my hair said, “Why did you move back to Edmond?” I said “To work at Citizens.” And she put her scissors down and said, “Oh my goodness, you need to be careful ’cause there’s this evil woman that’s come to work there that’s destroying that bank.” And I told her, I said, “I think that you’re talking about me.” And she’s like, “No, you’re so kind and sweet.” And I was like, “No, I think you are talking about me.”
Jill Castilla: My reputation was really poor in the community. People, if they met me at a Chamber event and I introduced myself they would kind of throw their hands up in the air and say, “I know who you are.” Then the bank started to gain some negative press and it became public through our call report, that the performance had suffered and we were, that year the worst performing community bank in the state of Oklahoma. And because we were one of the few troubled banks and really the only one in the metro area, we had some negative stories written about us that were very popular.
Jill Castilla: Then if you looked at bankrate.com, our rating was a D-, so customers would come in with that printed off and ask what had happened to their bank, and why did I let this occur. And then they wanted the old management back. We had 125 employees at that time, six bank locations. We ended up orchestrating the fastest turnaround in the nation without adding capital. But the perception of the bank mainly at that time was very negative. We were trying to shrink the bank because we didn’t have access to capital. So we were running off deposits. We also couldn’t heavily discriminate between … it goes on in [inaudible 00:04:39] as far as our customers that were on the books, so everyone was kind of addressed with this cynicism. I was doing that, trying to figure out if someone was … if someone had a loan we wanted to keep or a loan we wanted to lose. So we lost a lot of customers as a result of that too.
Jill Castilla: The turnaround happened and we were able to save the bank, which was the objective. But we were kind of left with a tattered reputation because of the orchestration of the turnaround and then the loss of a beloved team. But what we found was, that social capital that the bank developed over the 110 years prior to the turnaround, and people stuck with us still even though they didn’t have a very favorable impression of me or of the institution now that it had changed so much. We then proceeded to sell our branch locations. We went to one location just a year out of the turnaround. That caused some reputational harm as well.
Jill Castilla: But the press we found, because we were engaging a lot more on social media, and really being authentic and transparent with how we were telling the story of what happened, and why are we we making some of these changes, we found that the stories became more favorable, that we had a social media resurgence of popularity and people really supporting the bank. I would search for “Citizens Bank sucks” on social media and there’s lots of Citizens Banks around the nation but all the ones that talked about sucking were related to my Citizens Bank. I would address those people individually to try to understand what we could do better. And those individuals became advocates for us. That really started to help propelling … going through that kind of damaging time to our reputation really started helping us change how we managed the bank’s brand going forward. And kind of helped us to find who we wanted to be for the next 110 years.
Cameron Madill: That’s a lot to take on. Did you ever have moments where you regretted choosing the job and you wished you were back in northern Minnesota?
Jill Castilla: My husband was still in northern Minnesota and I was here with our three kids and I was fortunate that the bank I worked at in Minnesota, they kept telling me, “We’re not replacing your position. It’s here for you if you want to come back.” So I had that touchstone I could come back to. But being around the bank for just a couple days, you could see the impact it made in the community and how much it was leaned upon for those donations to the local football team or helping out that family in need that was in crisis that needed some help. There wasn’t necessarily a non-profit that could come and step in, but they looked to their bank to help them. We just saw how important it was, that it became so much of a social mission for me.
Jill Castilla: But I knew that if this didn’t work out, that I was still young and I could figure out something to do. I wanted to protect my family so I guess I really wanted to make sure the community didn’t lose one of its very few community banks that were still operating locally, and the only one that had been here from the community’s beginnings. It felt worth saving. That social cause really helped me find some courage to stay even though times were really tough and my popularity inside the bank was really really negative as well as externally. But one by one, people on the team saw what we were trying to achieve and they one by one came on and each person that came over from the dark side, using a Star Wars analogy, I felt more and more motivated. I knew that my intentions were good.
Jill Castilla: It allowed me to be a lot more self-aware and learn how I handle myself in a crisis. It was really … it would be one of the most impactful things I’ve ever done in my professional career. It really has helped define who I am now. You start realizing that those dark periods of time really helped you find the light and really help you become more brave and courageous in tackling tasks going forward.
Cameron Madill: I’m curious, you used the word courage a couple times. And that was gonna be one of my next questions, was, given that you didn’t have outside capital coming in, and you’ve got this confluence of, as you said, poor underwriting, fraud, unethical behavior, and of course, I couldn’t forget, the great reception. Was the path forward as far as consolidating branches, was that kind of obvious or did you have a hard time figuring out what the … was that the only way to save it or were there other … Did you spend a lot of time agonizing over different paths?
Jill Castilla: The bank actually was recovered before we decided to sell any branch locations. So our capital was stable. We had shrunk the bank, so our [inaudible 00:09:10] shows were favorable. We had now the control of the assets that were bad assets or that were … the trajectory of things weren’t that it was going down, but rather we knew what the issues were and we were recovering from them and knew what our potential losses could be. That all was looking more favorable. But I think what stood out to me during that time was the board telling me that we want to be around for the next 100 years. We want Citizens Bank of Edmond to be the name of the bank on the side of this building for now and forevermore.
Jill Castilla: Having that really clear path, it was obvious that the bank … because we weren’t in a fragile capital position anymore but we couldn’t waste capital. Analyzing the branches, it was obvious that they were losing $500,000 apiece annually. If we’re saying that we want to be around for another 100 years, the banks that are located all within two and a half miles of each other, all I could do was shift profitability. I couldn’t really make something more profitable because of its location. Because it would just be taking lenders that could have been centralized and putting them two miles away.
Jill Castilla: It was clear immediately to me, and when I started sharing the economics with our team through staff meetings with all of our team members, I would have tellers raising their hands and asking, “Why are they keeping these branches if they’re losing us so much money and we’re saying we want to be around for the longterm?” We’re really fortunate our bank is owned a third by our employees through an employee stock ownership program, so that teller is one of my shareholders. Having that come from them, through sharing the analytics and the information really helped us get the buy-in and be able to present to the board that it makes sense for us to sell those branches. This board designed those branches. They built them. They were part of the site selection so there’s a lot of pride attached to them. They were beautiful. They weren’t old. They’re only … the oldest one I think had been around for ten years.
Jill Castilla: They were accumulating deposits that just weren’t … didn’t have a profitability. It was a harder sell to the board. They allowed me to put one on the market but I didn’t know which one would be the most marketable. We ended up having an offer for all of them and had a considerable gain on sale with that. We kept the deposits and then we were able to retain the deposits, just in how we communicated with customers. And then some technology that we deployed to be able to take the place of the drive-through near where those bank branches were. And we were able to have net customer growth as a result. A lot of it was just being really transparent and then letting the crowd state the obvious, that we had to do something about these branches, and if we were gonna move forward with this clear plan to be around, then something needed to be done.
Cameron Madill: That’s great. I’m curious. I’ve had a chance to … you’ve had a bunch of great articles written about you online, so if people are interested they can go learn more there. But I know that you like the Steve Jobs quote of “creativity is just connecting things”. You’ve got all these great things that you’ve done. Can you tell us about some of the creative and maybe not common connections, a few of the ones that you’ve made that you’re proud of?
Jill Castilla: Yes, there’s some quote where he talks about that you can only connect the dots when you’re looking into the past, when you’re looking backwards. That you really don’t realize that these things were all connected. But so many of the great things that have happened at our bank have been due to random occurrences that have come together to really lead us into an innovation that we wouldn’t have been able to achieve without just being present in these different moments.
Jill Castilla: One of them is we just opened up an unmanned facility in downtown Oklahoma City and we had no … I mean, I had swore I would never have another branch location. This an electronic banking facility that we opened, but that came from … We were engaged in social media. It was the largest food truck festival in the nation. It was located in midtown Ok-
PART 1 OF 3 ENDS [00:13:04]
Jill Castilla: There was the largest food truck festival in the nation as located in midtown Oklahoma City, and at that time it was occurring monthly. And I really thought it’d be cool if we could get ATMs there, and so I reached out to them and said, “Can we provide ATMs for the event?”
Jill Castilla: And I got a reply that like, “No, we’re with a big, regional bank. They’re doing well. We’ll let you know if anything ever happens, but thanks for reaching out.”
Jill Castilla: Well, then they had a tweet that came across a couple months later that said that the big regional wasn’t being able to provide the ATMs today, so please bring cash. And I replied, “Hey, if Citizens Bank can help, just let me know what we can do.”
Jill Castilla: And they said, “Hey, if you can get ATMs here, you can have ATMs for the rest of the time that you want at this event.” And so we were able to … I didn’t have extra ATMs, but I was able to work with [crosstalk 00:13:45]-
Cameron Madill: How did you do that?
Jill Castilla: Yeah, I coordinated with them to try to go through my Rolodex, find anyone that could help me out. Worked with the State Banking Department so that we could deploy these ATMs, and we started just working with that district, and we didn’t have any geographic reason to be in there. It was kind of up and coming, hipster, real millennial business owner area of the town that was rapidly accumulating more bars, and restaurants, and really trendy places, and achieving greater density in a really rapid time period.
Jill Castilla: And so became friends from a social media standpoint there, and then we started having social media outcry that they wanted something like this in Edmond, in our community, that our citizens said, “Hey, if Citizens Bank of Edmond could do something like this in Edmond, why not do that?” And so we’ve started Heard on Hurd, which is our big community festival, based on what was happening in our friends in [inaudible 00:14:40], and they were very helpful to make that happen for us. So they helped us create Heard on Hurd, just based upon that ATM call out from before.
Jill Castilla: And then, even carrying those dots even further, the coffee shop that started that event reached out to us and said they wanted to start banking with us. And again, this was like a 20 minute drive, which, it’s 20 miles from their location to where we are. And, then we just didn’t think that that sounded right for them to have to drive up here for change orders and things like that. But I met with them, and they’re like, “You know, this is really what we need from a bank.”
Jill Castilla: I’m like, “You know, I think I could come up with technology that could meet that need.” And sitting in this coffee shop, and a developer I knew was down at another table, and we called out to him.
Jill Castilla: He was like, “Hey, I know Alison,” who was at another table, “And, I think she has a space for leave.” And within a couple weeks we were able to find the technology that we kind of co-developed to meet the needs of that coffee shop, and I found the space to rent, and find the lease, and got all that done. But all of it stemmed from that initial interaction by the ATM at a musical event, but all those connections and dots led to a musical event in our downtown area, which is, it’s like a bank party and we do it eight times a year, and we get 30 to 40,000 people coming to the bank community event using only social media to promote. And then we have a very innovative, one of a kind cash realization facility for the last 24/7 access to bars, and coffee shops, and restaurants that we are able to develop technology because of this connection with a customer.
Jill Castilla: So, being able to listen, to just being aware, being at the right place at the right time, and all those dots lead you where you are.
Jill Castilla: And then, on a personal level, I was in the Army, faced a lot of difficulty as an enlisted person in the military 20 plus years ago, and got to go to the Federal Reserve and work there for 10 years and that bank in Minnesota. And then all of that experiences personally led to me being well equipped to handle the challenges that were asked of us at Bank of Edmond during the turnaround. And, without those three or four different things that I came from, I was so uniquely prepared for that experience, but you can just see looking backwards how all of those dots led to this place, to be at the right spot at the right moment with the right people, to do something that’s really special and something that we think we can carry on for decades to come.
Cameron Madill: That’s an amazing set of connections. And, I guess after being in the Army, a mean hairdresser is not so hard to handle, huh?
Jill Castilla: No, not at all.
Cameron Madill: So I’m curious [crosstalk 00:17:15]
Jill Castilla: The hairdresser was 29.
Cameron Madill: I’m sure you won her over too. That was just a good story. So, one of the things … this is a perfect segue way into my next question is, I first heard about you through one of our strategists who saw you at the Financial Brand Forum, and said you brought the house down in a good way.
Cameron Madill: Um, so perfect segue way from that, is that you like to talk about the importance of humility. So, I’ll pop you up, we’ll talk about all your awards, but it seems like a lot of what has facilitated these connections we’re talking about is these core values of humility and accessibility, and I’d love to hear you talk a little more about why you think those traits are important, how they’ve served you, and maybe any examples as well. ‘Cause I think those are also unobjectionable things that I think many people would say they have. But, there’s a difference between being humble and accessible in theory, and being humble and accessible in practice.
Jill Castilla: Yeah, I think it’s a really great question. And, it’s something that you have to work towards. The humility, it doesn’t come naturally really to anybody. Especially as you start achieving some success, you have to be intentional about being humble and connected. And the accessibility leads to time constraints, and demands, and juggling so many different avenues of being able to interact. There’s so much demand for accessibility, because we are pretty restrictive with our time, and a lot of banks, CEO’s on an ivory tower and a gatekeeper to keep them away from some of those time demands. Because, those really challenge you.
Jill Castilla: So, you’re having to really work to be both accessible and humble, or approachable. Yeah, anytime I’ve let me ego take control and get out of control, I’ve been humbled. I do think that the universe works that way, that you will be … there will be some corrective action or experience will make sure that you’re taught that you’re not in control of everything and that you’re not gods gift to banking and everything else. And, my favorite personal motto is, “You ego is not your amigo.” And, I have to remind myself about that sometimes.
Jill Castilla: My dad would always say, “Don’t believe your own headlines.” You know, everybody know the real story, and so, I think whenever I’ve been able to stay really engaged and present and not discern between people coming from a lower level of, whether they’re a brand new business owner, or they’re starting at their company, or they’re buying that first house, or they’re … one thing to think about right, buying that first house in five years ’cause they have credit issues, or they had some type of stumble in their life that puts them in a situation that didn’t allow them to have accessibility to buying a house, or starting a business. Whenever you’re able to really connect with people and understand the purpose of what you’re doing, there’s so much joy there, and it’s so delightful.
Jill Castilla: Whenever you start separating yourself and not being that accessible, then you can lose sight of what the real problems are, and the what the real mission of what we’re trying to achieve is, and you can start thinking about more of the multi-million dollar loans, those are real easy things, but those don’t necessarily have this much joy as really being impactful to someone’s life. Whenever I’ve let myself, let someone else take control over my schedule, I really think about where’s the best bang for my minute, or hour, or day spent. Usually there’s the financial statement that’s there somewhere, what type of return there could be on your time.
Jill Castilla: But, what I found is something like Heard on Hurd is a really good example of this; so we were doing Heard on Hurd as a summer concert series, we have three local bands, three awesome food trucks, and three dozen pop-up shops now. But, we started off trying to beg food trucks to come to downtown Edmond, because it was, not a blighted area, but an area that was struggling and it wasn’t attracting millennial investment, or the investments of wealth like other areas [inaudible 00:21:24] were attracting.
Jill Castilla: My question I got from my management team and my board was, “What are we expecting to get from this investment? Are we going to get deposits, are gonna get loans? What’s gonna be the benefit for us?” And, seeing the social path that the bank had built up, and how people stuck with us through the turnaround, this concept of if you do good, you’ll do well had stuck with me. And, it goes against my analytical nature and type A personality, but what I have found, that if you do give without actually having an expectation to what success is gonna look like, then your success is ten-fold of anything you could’ve estimated it to be otherwise if you were intending to get loans from an event, or from a … we would not … it’d be so hard to get them, but if you went in just wanting to do good, people come to you wanting to align themselves with something that is [inaudible 00:22:17] and that they get delight from.
Jill Castilla: So, Heard on Hurd is like that, so went in, we had no expectations to what we would result from it, monetarily. We just said, we want to build our community. We’re gonna invest in our community, and what comes from it, we’re hoping is goodness. We’re not looking for it to produce loans, or deposits. We want it to just be goodness, and we wanted to create excitement about this area where our bank is located, we want people to invest in this area of town. It doesn’t matter if they bank with us or not, we just want good things to happen here.
Jill Castilla: So, what we found, is when we didn’t think about those things, people came to us in troves and we would have … our email box would be filled with requests to come in and move loans, or open accounts with the bank because people wanted to be affiliated with it. Not only that, but people wanted to work at the bank because of this social goodness that we were promoting, and we didn’t anticipate that being a consequence. Even more than that, it’s still this pride in our team where they really [inaudible 00:23:20] the mission of the bank more than what you could just say as a statement, but they saw it in action.
Jill Castilla: And, all of that … if we had just said we were going to do this event so we could get ten million dollars in loans, we would’ve lost all that magic and we may have gotten close to that goal, or maybe even exceeded it, but we would’ve lost out on all those additional benefits that come from something really happening organically. I think that can really happen when you really have good intentions, that you’re really present, that you’re really trying to meet a need that exists, and you’re doing it based upon the customers needs, or the community’s needs, and not your own.
Cameron Madill: Yeah, not quite as emotional as two million dollars in loans. [crosstalk 00:23:59] I guess, a lot more [inaudible 00:24:00] I should say, that’s funny. So, a lot of your success really has been in the community development space.
Cameron Madill: I’m curious, ’cause you talked about type A personality, and analytical side, and clearly your board is asking you these questions, as they should, about ROI, so at the intersection of those two … what would be the number one thing you would recommend for a community banker, credit union that is looking to do community development, do good, in whatever their market is, and to also do well by it. ‘Cause I think often these things are viewed as kind of disconnected.
Jill Castilla: Yeah, I think it’s really important to be able to tell the story well. So, [inaudible 00:24:39] the community as to why you’re doing it, but then with the board of directors you have to know the audience that you’re speaking to, so whenever … I had to defend initially that you’re going to have to have faith in this. Faith in me that I’m not gonna lead you astray, and really define what you have at risk. How much money is at risk? How much time is at risk? Is there any benefit, even if there’s no loans that are procured from this, are we gonna be able to get earned media from it? Are we gonna be able to get more brand awareness of the bank. There should be some of those byproducts. And, really define what the costs are and then what some anticipated benefits that you can kind of anticipate that could be there.
Jill Castilla: And so, we did cash mob for instance, where I give money to staff, and they spend money at a particular business on a particular day. My staff, when I said, “We’re gonna be doing cash mob.” I’m gonna give our staff a certificate, they’re gonna go across the street, spend money at a store, take a picture and post it on social media, and then we’ll pay for the first five dollars that they spend. I had staff tell me, “That’s the stupidest idea I’ve ever heard. Why would we do this? This doesn’t make any sense. I don’t see any other banks that are doing this. I’m not seeing any other businesses that are doing this. This isn’t making any sense.” So, what I came back with is, “We have 60 staff members. This is five dollars per staff member, that’s three hundred dollars. If it fails, I’ve wasted three hundred dollars. You know? It was a basically an out of the way for everybody and maybe we got …”
Jill Castilla: Yeah. It was basically as an attaboy for everybody, and maybe we got a little bit of it from a morale standpoint. We would probably have a better relationship with the business across the street. There is some benefit from it, and at the end of the day it would cost us $300. So if it sells, it’s a pretty small sale, and that’s what we really try to focus on, is our failures being pretty small. So they’re hard to criticize, if there’s something that results from them. It’s not like we’re jumping completely off and doing something crazy.
Jill Castilla: And with that we went ahead and did it, and I kind of was the dictator mode at that point and said, “We’re doing it.” I know that you all don’t want to, but we’re doing it. And we did it and we were on the front page of the Daily Oklahoma business section, in full color, with the store owner with a sign saying, “We love Citizens Bank.” And it ran in several of our newspapers. We couldn’t eve afford a little logo ad in the newspaper at that time, so we were doing no purchase advertising. Was getting all those earned media, and it was talked about on television, it was talked about on radio, and we had dozens of businesses after that point ask for us to cash mob them, and then our staff absolutely loved it.
Jill Castilla: So we had all those incredible benefits the way that we initially defined it was, “What’s really the cost associated with this and what is the risk associated with this, and then, what are some of the minor benefits that we can get?” And if we can sell small and fast. And we just don’t do it again if it doesn’t work. Then that’s how you can get some creative things going and see what sticks, and then really start focusing on tracking the benefits for those different audiences.
Cameron Madill: That’s a great use of the cash mob. All right. So we’re coming to the end of our time here, so my second to last question is, when I was doing some additional reading up on you, I heard that you do these fireside chats and you basically, answer questions from anyone on your team. And so I was curious. I heard that you get questions, everything from, “Where do babies come from?” to “What’s your favorite yoga position?” Is that right?
Jill Castilla: That’s correct. And they submit these anonymously, too, using a digital channel, so they can, as I’m sitting there, they can ask questions too, without me knowing who and they can also submit it ahead of time. So yeah, they can get, they started off kind of being silly like that. Most of the time though, they’re pretty hard-hitting questions. It’s a great level of transparency to have. I now rotate our senior management through it because I don’t think that they realize how much of a hot seat that can be.
Jill Castilla: Because it starts being kind of easy for me. I enjoy going to them. I started having some of my senior team members asking to preach, have questions in that venue. I’m like, “You know, I think it’s like you guys understand this beat too, so you know what it’s like to put yourself really out there. And not know what question was going to come to you, and that you really that the expectation is that you’re transparent in how you respond to it.” Now it’s not just me participating as well as our senior team, too.
Cameron Madill: That’s great. Can you share one or two of the most provocative or compelling questions that you’ve gotten?
Jill Castilla: Gosh, I’m trying to think of some. We do a pretty extraordinary Christmas light display. There was a question about, the bank was kind of recovering at this time, and we were really watching our expenditures, we had sold all our branch locations. There was a rumor, I guess, flying around that we were spending over 100,000 dollars on Christmas lights, but then we had employee benefits down pretty substantially at that time. And so there was a lot of concern about, do we care more about Christmas lights than we do about people.
Jill Castilla: And so answering that question, in public … It’s great to get it out there, and we were able to talk about, “We’re consolidating our branch locations and we’re spending a little bit less than we did when we had all those locations. But we’re really trying to make an impact by trying to have more community development to make this more of a destination to come to at the bank.” Our areas are pretty, at that time, there wasn’t a lot of consumers coming through downtown MN. We’re the only bank down here.
Jill Castilla: We want to turn from that being a weakness to being a strength. That was one of the things we did was divert those expenses that we [inaudible 00:30:20] branches for putting up for [inaudible 00:30:21]. Doing that now at the bank. We had invested, also, as part of that LED lights so we wouldn’t have to replace light as often. We did make an investment, but we’re still under the budget of what we’d annually spend on Christmas Lights.
Jill Castilla: I was then able to talk about the re-introduction of new benefits that we hadn’t publicly talked about coming back yet but that were ready to be announced. I was able to talk about that kind of more prematurely than I would have intended about what was kind of coming down the Pike. I really appreciated that feedback. We’re sensitive to those things. I wanted to be clear on how much we’re actually spending on lights and what we were planning to do to make people feel appreciated and add any benefits that the bank provided.
Jill Castilla: That was a big, emotional discussion that engaged a lot of people. We talked about the mid town office as we launched our finance facility. It was really a way for people to ask the purpose of that, to be able to ask in a venue with a lot of protection. Know that their peers are around them to hear the same answer. To be able to ask more about the purpose of that or maybe even weaknesses that they saw that they wouldn’t have felt comfortable saying in person. At a level where they didn’t feel like they had as much of a voice and they were able to voice it in that venue that would cause us to have to really adjust and improve what we’re doing down there.
Jill Castilla: We previously planned to have that open to the public and as a result of those discussions we ended up saying, “Let’s just restrict it to customers and people can request to be in the space or have an app to be able to access it rather than us having something open 24 hours.”
Cameron Madill: Amazing jury of transparency and it seems like getting to like I think the military called it the ground truth versus the official truth. That’s very powerful.
Jill Castilla: Right.
Cameron Madill: Let’s do our final take. Is there anything you’d like to reiterate or anything you didn’t get to you you’d like to leave our audience with?
Jill Castilla: No, I think it it’s really important to have these types of discussions. Credit Unions and banks alike. If anyone would like to reach out to me I’m open to my brethren out there, too, that are doing the same kind of work that we’re doing and I think it’s important to share our stories and share lessons learned. We’re part of a great industry and if we support one another and share how we can really be impactful to communities. Industry that survive for the long term and really be the leader and bring our nation forward.
Cameron Madill: Great, thank you again, so much, for joining us Jill.
Jill Castilla: Thanks so much.
Cameron Madill: Alright, folks. Another great episode. I really enjoyed that conversation with Jill. I’d like to quick share some of my key take aways. The first thing I was struck with was how Jill’s comment about the dark periods help you to find the light and that when you’re going through a turnaround of any kind, whether it’s the entire institution or just one particular department or if it’s just your career, it’s always darkest just before dawn.
Cameron Madill: I was next struck by the way she talked about how when you look at your institution with the long view, certain decisions are a lot easier. The board said we want to be here for another 110 years. That actually make the decisions to close their other branches a lot easier.
Cameron Madill: There’s a famous decision making framework called 10-10-10, which works on this concept. Basically the idea is, anytime you’re wrestling with a decision you say, “What’s going to be the best decision 10 weeks from now? 10 months from now? 10 years from now?” That switching of frames can be very powerful.
Cameron Madill: I was also really struck how much Jill said that the social capital that they had built up over the years really mattered for them, even when they went through a reputational downturn. There’s still enough residual trust and that was able carry them through some experimentation and risky moves.
Cameron Madill: I thought it was fascinating how Jill said that part of their greater degree of transparency and engagement comes from the fact that 1/3 of the bank is owned through an employee stock option plan. It just has me thinking about with credit unions, I always wonder how can the cooperative model be strengthened so that that connection and engagement both for members as well as from employees that they feel truly, deeply connected at the success of the institution.
Cameron Madill: There’s a lot of different ways to make these business models work. It’s not as cut and dried as a credit union or a bank. I loved Jill’s quote from Steve Job’s that you can only connect the dots when you’re looking backwards. She said if you’re passionate about community development, which in her mind she said means focus on creating goodness, building excitement and energy for your community, that this will ultimately lead to you doing well, but you won’t necessarily know how at the time.
Cameron Madill: Then Jill’s comment about, “So, how do you make that work when you’ve got a lot of numbers peoples in financial institutions and ROY is always present in everyone’s mind and a lot of community development is intangible?” Her comment of really focus on what’s the downside. Look for what are the little bets that you can place so that you know that the potential loss is limited and you can experiment with a bunch of different things till you find something that resonates.
Cameron Madill: That story about a cash mob with a total cost of 300 dollars getting them on the front page of the newspaper really made a lot of sense to me as far as how you can execute on that. I loved her quote, I guess this is from her dad, that ego is not your amigo. It was great to hear coming from a community bank CEO whose had a huge amount of success and accolades at this point. Talking about how important it is to maintain that humility to really be successful.
Cameron Madill: Lastly, I love Jill’s comment about how whenever you can connect with people and their purpose, there’s so much more joy there than just in talking about the numbers. I think joy is something that we don’t talk about a lot in the banking sector. It really is a deeply human emotion. It’s a huge part of the human experience. Numbers sort of get in the way of that. Anytime we can make those deeper connections, we’re actually building that emotional resonance, that emotional glue which creates that long term social capital.
Cameron Madill: Alright, that’s all for today folks. I look forward to seeing you on a future episode and until then I wish you the best of luck in making your credit union remarkable.