Lessons from a small bank

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 How does a small bank—and a relative startup at that—innovate with technology in a market where the big players spend billions?

American Banker’s profile of First Virginia Community Bank spotlights a few tactics that have worked for the $500 million, six-year-old, commercial bank. Probably most significant has been the bank’s investment in technology for remote check deposits. First Virginia provides free check scanners and low-cost or free cash management software, when some competitors are charging $49 to $99 a month for scanner rentals. First Virginia will also send a same-day replacement, should a scanner break.

This fits with the bank’s larger strategy of targeting large local depositors as customers. Not only do such services attract SME customers with high deposit needs, but they encourage the garnering of more deposits sooner from the customers they win. Given its location in the DC area, First Virginia has targeted the deposit-heavy niches of local government contractors, nonprofits, and professional firms such as law firms. First Virginia even won the fees, fines, escrow and various deposit account business of the local circuit court clerk.

In short, a small bank can bundle advanced technology as part of a service-intensive focus for a targeted niche market. By identifying a high-value customer base, a bank—or another small firm—can justify the investment in technology that provides measurable customer value and reinforces the service orientation of a niche provider.