Connecting Community and Celebrating 15 Years in Banking
By BILL PERRY
ANN ARBOR — When Bank of Ann Arbor (BOAA) started 15 years ago, the power of the Internet was still developing. Today, it is a major driver of the global economy and has changed how we work, play, and learn. Bank of Ann Arbor, a community bank, recognized early how the Internet can have a positive impact in a competitive market. It has been a leader among Michigan community banks to make new media and social media become a big part of its marketing model.
“I was an early adapter to both Twitter and Facebook several years ago,” admitted Tim Marshall, President and CEO of Bank of Ann Arbor, who could see the power of social media as it related to a large group of people in a community receiving a message and then relaying that message. “I started to promote it internally at the bank to a lot of people who did not totally understand the full potential of social media. Fortunately I had a team, led by Vice President and Marketing Manager Rhonda Foxworth, who embraced the concept; and with our technical staff developed social media to become an effective tool in our marketing plan.”
Most recently, BOAA kicked off the Sweet 15 Local Charity Drive, a Facebook application created to donate up to $75,000 to 15 local non-profit organizations. It was a huge success according Marshall. Using a specially developed application, Bank of Ann Arbor harnessed the power of social media to involve thousands in the Ann Arbor area to help direct funds to local nonprofits.
Marshall explained that BOAA also sponsors another Facebook page for its popular summer music program, Sonic Lunch. During its second summer the bank had a student intern who was passionate about social media. He helped to develop the page to gain over 1,100 Likes. At the same time, Marshall noticed that the BOAA bank Facebook page only had 279 Likes. “We needed to expand our coverage and so when we developed our 2011 marketing plan we decided that a key objective would be to grow our bank’s Facebook page,” he explained. “With the Sweet 15 campaign we have gone from 279 to over 16,500 Likes from the community on our BOAA Facebook page.”
In the first round of the Sweet 15Local Charity Drive, Facebook users were invited to “Like” Bank of Ann Arbor’s Facebook page and then vote for a favorite charity from a long list of local organizations. On April 12, Round One ended with the top 15 vote-getting charities advancing to the second round to receive a share of up to $75,000. Round 2 was originally scheduled to end on July 31, 2011, fifteen weeks later. However, based on the tremendous response from the participants, Round 2 ended on May 12, 2011 at 10:15pm. Total voting for Round 1 and 2 exceeded 113,000 votes.
Social Media Attracts New Customers
The Sweet 15 Local Charity Drive has also provided BOAA a fresh way of attracting new customers. “I recently had the opportunity to talk to a young couple who opened an account with us after learning about our bank through Facebook. We are introducing our bank to a large group of community minded people, many younger—the future bank customers, who may not have had an idea of who we are or what we can provide to meet their banking and financial needs. With that said, the final demographics of the voters were fairly evenly split over all age groups.”
Marshall noted that many companies, including more progressive banks like Bank of Ann Arbor, are using social media to engage with customers and potential customers to tell them about their products, services, community involvement, and to bolster their overall marketing campaigns. “The goal of our Sweet 15 Local Charity Drive is to celebrate our successful 15 year anniversary in business, to generate significant goodwill as an organization that continues to give back to the community, to welcome thousands of new ‘friends’ into the Bank of Ann Arbor community, and to enlarge the universe of prospective Bank of Ann Arbor clients using Facebook.”
“Social media is an essential channel that we will use to communicate in the future. Community banks who choose not to use it will lose ground in the marketing space.”
Tim Marshall, President and CEO of Bank of Ann Arbor
It’s about the Future
Marshall said security issues do not need to be a holdback to use social media. “It has not been a problem for us. Our marketing and IT department work closely together and address all concerns with security before anything is implemented.”
He said the key to success of a social media campaign rests with executive level leadership. “You need the leadership at the top of the organization to gain traction for it. If senior management doesn’t get it or use it, it’s not going anywhere. You must also have your marketing and IT department on the same page as it relates to execution of an effective social media effort.”
According to Marshall, once the broad social media policy and strategy is in place, then marketing can focus on actual development of a bank’s social media site and execution. BOAA’s advice for community banks includes:
• Develop a strategy for what content will be posted, who will do the posts, and how often. Make a plan to monitor the page for posts and respond promptly. This media is not a “set it and forget” type. It needs to be used regularly and monitored frequently. Make sure you can commit the resources, the staff, time and perhaps a little money, before jumping into it.
• Teach all members of your senior management team, if necessary, how to set up and use their own social media pages.
• Create a policy for acceptable use of social media by your employees. Less restrictive is better, but needs to fit in with your corporate culture.
• Have fun with it. Don’t post all the time about rates or product of the week. Be real and be human, not all corporate.
BOAA now has a group of customers and prospects who enjoy connecting with social media. “If Facebook users were a country it would be the fourth largest,” Marshall said. “Facebook went from 2.1 million, to 3.7 million users in Michigan from July, 2009 to July, 2010, a 72 percent increase. As of October of last year Facebook is reaching over 50 percent of people with Internet access. This is the channel that we will use to communicate in the future. Community banks who choose not to use it will lose ground in the marketing space.” Sweet 15 is an example of what can be done differently to communicate with the community you are doing business in. Marshall emphasized that social media and banking are very compatible and BOAA is working hard to be out front in this area.
Over the past 15 years the bank has been a pacesetter in a number of areas and looking back, Marshall is pleased to point to many successes which include:
• Working to grow a very sizable life science and technology business banking program;
• Starting up Ann Arbor Angels, a group to help develop early entrepreneurial relationships with high net worth investors and eventually venture capital firms; and,
• Major stakeholder in the founding six years ago of Ann Arbor Spark by contributing $150,000 to expand and attract knowledge based business in the area.
BOAA more than weathered the storms of the Great Recession staying profitable throughout the downturn. “National and regional banks, and particularly those that took TARP money, have been our best referral sources. We benefited from being local and emphasized the success and strength of the bank. We had record-level growth in deposits and earnings during this time,” Marshall emphasized. “We have seen the importance of community as being very relevant. We are very involved in the community and that was part of the fabric when we started the bank 15 years ago.”
15 Years in Ann Arbor
On January 16, 1996 Bank of Ann Arbor opened its doors with 15 employees and one location. At its opening the only banking institutions available to Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti residents were headquartered and based outside the area. The bank established a solid footing so that when the banking crisis hit in 2008 presenting one financial challenge after another, its bottom line remained profitable.
Despite the challenges the banking industry faced in 2009 when over 40 percent of all Michigan banks lost money, Marshall noted that Bank of Ann Arbor weathered the economic storm better than most financial institutions as it generated profits in excess of $1.8 million. While many reduced staff, closed offices and eliminated benefits, BOAA added 30 new full-time experienced banking professionals which supported growth strategies. In 2009, its mortgage teams continued to benefit from the low rate environment closing over $800 million in mortgage originations. The positive momentum continued in 2010 as the bank grew by over 27 percent and ended with $689 million in bank assets, trust assets under management of $670 million, and a total of over $1.3 billion. Most importantly and during a year that continued to present challenges to the banking industry, earnings hit record levels as they improved to over $5 million.
In May 2010 with the assistance of the FDIC, Bank of Ann Arbor acquired the deposits and most of the assets of New Liberty Bank of nearby Plymouth, adding its first office outside of Washtenaw County.
Bank of Ann Arbor now has seven offices— with five in Ann Arbor, one in Ypsilanti and one in Plymouth. BOAA employs over 160 people which include the staff of its wholesale mortgage division based in Madison Heights.
BOAA provides business and consumer online banking and bill pay, mobile banking, e-alerts, e-statements, online account opening for deposit accounts, and mortgage applications online, all through its website, boaa.com. It also has a mobile-friendly version of its website at boaa.com/mobile.