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Walden Federal: Continued Growth in Troubled Times

Can a bank produce stable growth in today’s choppy lending environment? Walden Federal Savings & Loan Association of Walden, NY proves there is room for growth through an innovative mix of hometown charm and high tech alliances. After growing by 161 percent in the past 10 years and earning a five star rating from Bauer Financial, the bank is poised for further growth.
“We are investing in products and branch locations to serve our customers,” said Thomas F. Gibney, president and CEO, Walden Federal Savings & Loan Association. “We have doubled our branch network, and are now expanding the bank’s business product line. We are capitalizing on our technology partners to deliver the features that our business customers need and the automation to keep us efficient and profitable as we continue to grow.”
The market surrounding Walden Federal is experiencing a rapid rise in business activity, thanks to a combination of developments that include the New York Metro area’s fourth international airport, a globally-famous shopping area, and a resurgent 19th century riverfront city – all within a few miles of the bank. Gibney reports that the county is New York State’s fastest growing.
“Retail and service businesses are springing up everywhere,” Gibney said. “A million travelers used Stewart International Airport last year and major air freight opportunities are on their way. This area is definitely poised for sustained economic growth. That’s the reason behind our focus on expanding the bank’s business product line.”
Gibney said that Walden Federal’s technology partner, COCC of Avon, CT, has been central to its launch of remote deposit capture, and is helping the bank prepare for the impending release of business debit cards, a suite of business banking products, and Web-based business banking. “We want our customers to be able to have all the capabilities that the largest banks offer with unsurpassed, local service,” Gibney says. “That combination of product and service will help us attract commercial deposits and expand our presence.”
Business debit cards are expected in the fourth quarter along with the release of Web-based business banking. Capabilities of the Web-based product include online bill payment, ACH transfers for payroll and taxes, and cash management. The ACH and wire transfer capabilities will debut at year end or first quarter 2009, says Judy Weyant, Walden Federal’s chief operating officer.
The .NET core account processing system  is one of the first that’s based on an Oracle database.
Open, relational systems built on Oracle provide greater data and processing flexibility. The Oracle database can accommodate non-alphanumeric information, such as customer signatures, photos and fingerprints. Its processing flexibility results in much faster implementation of new capabilities due to the ease of data sharing between applications.
“New data literally arrives at our system with processing instructions that automatically handle the sharing/update process,” Weyant said. “Finally, open, relational systems are the ones that today’s programmers work on. Legacy systems, which power the majority of banks today, rely on much older programming languages and techniques that are no longer taught in technical schools.”
With or without the Oracle data base, today’s banks use Windows at teller, CSR, back room and executive workstations. The Oracle data base provides the latest core processing capabilities which eliminate the work-arounds and bridging systems that eat up time & money at many banks.
The .NET core account processing system is an upgrade to the current open, relational system built on an Oracle data base. The bank expects to upgrade to this system next year.
“The customers who have implemented this version say it has dramatically increased back office efficiency,” she said, “cutting the time needed to perform key banking functions in half, enabling us to deliver better customer service more efficiently.”
A recent report by the Aite Group puts a dollar figure on the small business banking sector, forecasting $400 billion in small business spending on financial products in 2008 rising to $475 billion by 2010. Tapping into this revenue stream will require financial institutions to better understand the needs and banking preferences of these businesses.
When customers arrive at a Walden Federal branch, they find an energized staff as a result of the bank’s “Fish” philosophy, adapted from the famous Seattle Fish Market. Weyant explains that remarkable results can occur when people accept the invitation to “be there” for their coworkers and customers.
“Our customers notice the difference,” said Weyant. “They remark about the friendliness of the tellers and the platform staff. They enjoy coming to the bank and appreciate the higher level of service that we deliver. It really helps us attract and retain customers.”
That’s important, Weyant explained, because of the heightened competition in New York’s Orange County. “We used to have four local banks in Walden,” she said. “Now we have two. The rest of our competition is large banks with endless marketing budgets and community credit unions who are looking for increased market share. It’s a very tough environment and it makes efficiency a very important factor in everything we do.”      

Posted on Friday, October 03, 2008 (Archive on Thursday, January 01, 2009)
Posted by Scott  Contributed by Scott


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