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Digital Banking

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transforming banking today

Five Star Bank accelerates transformation of banking

By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA of the Rochester Business Journal

Five Star Bank Plaza in downtown Rochester at sunset.More than two years have passed since Five Star Bank launched its Today is Tomorrow in Progress marketing campaign.

Now, thanks to lessons learned during the coronavirus pandemic, that slogan very well could be Today is the Next Decade in Progress.

The adaptability of employees and customers alike has enabled Five Star Bank to hit the fast-forward button on the future, embracing work-from-home dynamics while implementing a digital platform to meet ever-changing banking needs.

“From a societal, economical and technological standpoint, this has pushed us forward 10 years,” Marty Birmingham, president and CEO of Five Star Bank, said. “We want to implement a thoughtful plan that allows us to navigate where the pandemic takes us.”

It was not business as usual when the pandemic struck, but business continued without interruption. Five Star Bank associates helped more than 1,700 small businesses secure loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, ensuring 18,000 small business employees could continue to pay bills.

Contrary to industry beliefs, certain demographic subsets, specifically the Silent Generation and Baby Boomers, have willingly adopted enhanced digital offerings, Birmingham said.

Five Star Bank President and CEO, Martin K. BirminghamThat means as New York continues to ease back into the new normal, the approach at Five Star’s bank branches will be altered when lobbies do reopen. Teams of associates will be focused on providing education, advice and solutions, not just standing behind a counter to manage deposits and account openings.

The bank also is evaluating the office structure from a corporate level. When Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered office shutdowns in March, about 65 percent of Five Star’s 600 employees — from operations staff, compliance officers and internal auditors to lenders and credit professionals — began to work remotely.

Some may continue to work-from-home, or will easily shift back to a remote work setting if there is a second wave of COVID-19 infections.

“Productivity levels are at or near the same levels of pre-COVID,” Sean Willett, senior vice president and chief administrative officer, said. “As we move forward, we’re looking at who really needs to come back into the office and who can continue to work from home.”

Said Birmingham: “We can embrace a more flexible work arrangement, which increases employee satisfaction and ultimately drives an increased customer experience.”

Part two of that equation is the workspace itself at Five Star Bank Plaza in downtown Rochester, as well as other corporate settings. Social distancing will be necessary. If 100 people worked on a particular floor, then perhaps 50 will now occupy the space.

Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer, Sean Willett“It’s not so much a contraction as a re-purposing and re-imagining of our space,” Willett said.

Earlier this week, around 20 employees returned to the corporate office in the village of Warsaw. Before leaving for work, the employees access a web-based tool created by the University of Rochester Medical Center that offers quick health screening questions.

Assuming the employees feel fine, they proceed to work where a temperature kiosk determines whether the employee’s key-card identification will allow entry to the facility. Similar technology is planned for branches as well.

“If it works as we anticipate, then we will implement it for customers making appointments,” Willett said.

There is much more to the plan than the technological and logistical elements, however. People are at the foundation of the bank. Birmingham said it’s imperative that the corporate culture is at the forefront of all strategic initiatives.

“That means maintaining regular communication and assuring that our associates don’t feel cut off or siloed,” Birmingham said. “We all benefit from being a small, impactful and collaborative organization — that’s part of our success, and we need to maintain that.”

Doing so will ultimately mean a stronger bank, he said.

“We are going to be in a much better position to build on the traditional relationship we’ve had with our customers,” Birmingham said. / (585) 653-4020

Reprinted with permission of RBJ. Copyright © 2020. All rights reserved.

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