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De Novo Bank Launch Driven By Best Tech Initiatives

By Thomas P. Smith

When entrepreneurs Larry Smith and David Zalik first started talking about the idea of launching a new bank in the hallway of their offices of Green Sky Financial at the end of 2005, they knew the bank would be one that would focus heavily on the latest and best in banking technology with four specific goals in mind. 
“We wanted to guarantee the most responsive service to our customers, said Zalik. “Secondly, we wanted to use technology to provide more and faster service.  We wanted to save customers time and add convenience to their banking and financial experience.  Lastly, we wanted to allow our customers and their new bankers to spend less time doing mundane, everyday transactions and more time developing relationships and providing personal value added service and strategic support.”
When their vision was realized with the opening of Atlanta-based RockBridge Commercial Bank ( a year and half ago in November 2006, the bank had just closed on what was the largest capitalization in Georgia state banking history at $36.6 million.
Zalik and Smith now serve as board members of the bank, with assets surpassing $180 million and loans $156 million in the winter of 2008.
The business model for the bank targets the financial needs of commercial clients and real estate developers and offers growing companies a unique mix of personalized, consultative services as well as the use of proven, state-of-the-art technologies.
Leading edge capabilities including a full array of cash management services, check image capture for remote deposits, and an image lockbox system that are engaged to respond effectively to client needs.  At the bank offices, safe deposit boxes are accessible without staff assistance through a palm hand scan, and the ATM also has check image capture capability with deposit verification containing those images.
“Location is no longer prohibitive to banking with us,” said Patti Batyske, senior vice president/director of operations.  “We can take banking to the customer through this offering of technology instead of forcing them to come to us.  We want to be able to service them so they can advance their business and we can create a relationship.” 
“Our footprint is in our one office and technology enables us to expand that footprint to wherever our clients are located,” said Lauch McKinnon, president and CEO of RockBridge.
One of the most significant rollouts at the bank was the introduction of ePosit, a service from Harland Financial Solutions, which allows clients to deposit all of their paper checks directly into their accounts directly without a trip to the bank.  ePosit can speed up cash availability and reduce costs associated with processing checks.  It’s easy to use and requires little training.  Scanned checks become electronic files, so one spends less time at the copier and can actually hold checks for internal accounting requirements.  One can make deposits at any point, and all deposits made by 5 p.m. are posted to an account the same day. 
“Remote deposit capture is probably the hottest item in banking and the best newest thing for customers,” added Batyske.
“Our company receives and processes hundreds of checks on a monthly basis, so RockBridge’s remote deposit ePosit has been a tremendous value, simplifying everything for us,” said Erik Stadler, “ managing partner and co-founder of Blue Sombrero (, a leading online registration provider and league management system for sports administrators.  “The time savings it creates allows us to focus more on growing our business which is priceless. RockBridge has been a great partner and made a big difference from our previous banking experiences.  They are located about 20 miles away and without this feature, it would be very difficult for us to bank with them.”
Stadler said staffers at his firm handle the basic math and the program verifies everything on screen where one can see actual images and transactions being reconciled.
“The banking component reflects upon our business,” he continued.  “If we’re out there telling our customers to increase efficiency, we need to do that as well.”
In terms of set-up, there is a dedicated staffer at the bank who handles that and is available for questions after the set-up is completed.  Batyske stated that there is a great deal of mutual trust with the bank’s clients and the fact there is a live person available instead of access only through an 800 number makes a huge difference when it comes to seeing results with customer satisfaction.
Dealer Funding, an auto financing business, uses the bank’s lockbox technology (provided by Diebold) after being frustrated that the previous lockbox operation the company set up took seven days for payments to get posted.
“We can now view checks or money orders within one or two days, and we are sent emails where we can view images and can run reports which allows us to move money into our account more quickly and efficiently,” said Shane George, a vice president with the company.  
A new treasury management program is on the horizon for client use, according to Batyske and Larry Smith and David Zalik hope to be one of the first to implement it at their firm.
All of the technologies being employed by RockBridge Commercial Bank can be implemented by banks in New York and throughout the country.  Some banks are simply choosing not to take advantage of all the technologies available to them.

Thomas P. Smith is a senior account manager with A. Brown-Olmstead Associates, a communications firm based in Atlanta, Georgia. Previously, he worked in a communications capacity at the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce.    

Posted on Thursday, July 03, 2008 (Archive on Wednesday, October 01, 2008)
Posted by Scott  Contributed by Scott


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