Kish Bank and the human side of innovation

09/06/2022

By Cara Aungst

Kish Bank is one of Pennsylvania’s fastest growing community bank franchises. Photo: Provided.

There are some banks that are very good at pioneering new technology and some that excel in high-touch personal service. But finding them both in one place — and from a bank launched and firmly planted right here in Happy Valley — is a rare thing.

“Kish Bank is an entrepreneurial family of community members with a shared passion for providing innovative financial solutions that make lives better,” Greg Hayes, COO at Kish Bank, said. “We’re anything but a traditional bank.”

“Live, local relationships must be at the center of all innovation."

Kish Bank got its start 30 miles from Happy Valley, in Belleville, Pennsylvania, in 1935. Today, the publicly traded company is one of Pennsylvania’s fastest growing community bank franchises with total assets of more than $1 billion and 18 offices throughout central Pennsylvania and northeastern Ohio.

“So many people think that banks are all the same,” Hayes said. “But once people switch to Kish, they tell us that they wish they would have changed a long time ago.”

“Maya Angelou once said, ‘People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.’ That’s what we do. A lot of banks say that they are local, but being local is integral to who we are and how we think,” he added. “How can we do what’s best for our clients right here in central Pennsylvania? That’s what gets us ranked. That’s what drives our growth — putting people first.”

What makes Kish Bank’s strategy so different, Hayes said, is the understanding that “live, local relationships must be at the center of all innovation,” and that guides every decision that the bank makes.

Its hyper-local, technology-driven culture allows Kish Bank to find solutions for customers from widely varying demographics, from providing parking for Amish horses at a Belleville branch to offering an off-site virtual teller at the downtown State College Experience More store. Hayes said, “Customer-focused banking requires ownership that supports that vision. If making money was the primary focus of the company, we would not make many of the decisions that we’ve made.”

A mural painted by William Snyder in Kish Bank’s Innovation Center illustrates the bank’s human focus, along with a commitment to community, with nods to Amish culture, Penn State, family and connection. Photo: Provided.

Kish Bank has always been focused on personalized financial solutions, but in the early 2010s, as hundreds of billions were invested in emerging FinTech, the bank navigated the line between service and technology. Hayes noted, “A lot of financial institutions relied on slick, self-service tech … and floundered because they didn’t build personal relationships with their customers. We decided to do it a different way.”

“We wanted to offer self-service that people were getting at Sheetz and grocery stores, but not remove the human aspect,” he said. “We took a lot of time and resources to build a system that would provide high-end financial services and human interaction … The same customer care specialists answering the phone also answer our chat help in our app and on our website. It’s not computerized. It’s not outsourced. It’s all based right here.”

“Putting people first is what drives our growth,” Kish Bank COO Greg Hayes said. Their summer 2022 ad shows how they partner with local customers to help reach financial goals. Video: Provided.

Kish’s model is allowing the bank to grow into more communities. This fall, as other banks close branches in Happy Valley, Kish is planning the opening of four new branches in Juniata County, Blair County, Huntingdon County and locally in Pine Grove Mills.

Soon, these new branches will offer the same personal service through a digital interface with a touchscreen that connects the customer to a live banker in Kish’s Innovation Center in Reedsville, Pennsylvania, to provide any full-service teller transaction needed and secure money exchange. Hayes said, “Other banks aren’t building their infrastructure in the same way. There’s no human interaction built into the digital experiences. They just expect people to only use an app with no human contact.”

Hayes said that the Happy Valley ecosystem has been a vital part of Kish Bank’s growth. “What we love about this community is that people get it. People see value in what Kish Bank provides. They understand that a relationship with a bank is a partnership. They are committed to making their ideas work, and value having Kish Bank as a partner.”

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