This week, we sit down with Dan Duchnowski to discuss how covid has forced community banks to change the way they approach marketing and digital banking.

To get Tom’s Bond Portfolio Trends Analysis, visit


Intro: Helping community bankers grow their team and their profits. This is The Community Bank Podcast.

Eric Bagwell: Welcome to The Community Bank Podcast. I’m Eric Bagwell, Director of Sales and Marketing with the correspondent division of South state bank. Joining me is Tom Fitzgerald, Director of Strategy here in our division Tom, you doing all right?

Tom Fitzgerald: Doing good Eric. How are you?

Eric Bagwell: I’m doing good. Also, on the show. I think it’s the first time we’ve all been on this intro Caleb Stevens, Caleb is a Business Development Officer serving Kentucky, Georgia, producer of the podcast.

Caleb Stevens: I think it’s our second time. But it’s rare to have a song on the show at one time so good to do it again.

Tom Fitzgerald:The three amigos.

Eric Bagwell:The three amigos it’s a crowded desk that we call our studio. Today on this show, we’ve got a great interview with Dan Dutchnowski, Dan is the Chief Deposit Officer at Planners First Bank in Cordele, Georgia. They’re a longtime customer of ours, I think over 25 years. They’re about 65 miles due south from Atlanta. So, in the middle of Georgia, and Dan just shares a lot of good ideas with us on the marketing side that he’s done. He has been at quite a few places in his career, but we’re glad to have him on, him and Caleb, hooked up through LinkedIn. And they’re as I said, they’re a good customer. And Caleb calls on this bank. So, but I guess we’ve gotten away from this just a little bit. But Tom, give us a quick market update on what to expect in the markets this week?

Tom Fitzgerald:Well, it’s going to be a case where we still kind of reflect on the march CPR report that just came out the prior week. It was a strong report, the market was expecting a strong report, and it came out above expectations. But the Fed has done a really good job in the last few weeks kind of jawboning that report to say, don’t worry, it’s going to be a pretty strong number, April’s probably going to be a pretty strong number. But we don’t think that the increases that it’s going to reflect are going to be kind of durable increases in inflation. So, far it looks like the market kind of reacted with a shrug. So, they kind of took the Fed at their word. So, we’ll just see how that as we roll through April, and get the April numbers if that will still be the case if the Fed is still going to be out their kind of saying, don’t worry, nothing to see here. But we’ll just see, the market treats it the same way. Caleb was all that right.

Caleb Stevens: Your guess is as good as mine. But my favorite shows are when Tom has to make an economic prediction, but the show is not coming out for like two or three weeks. And so, people will get to look back and see if he was right.

Eric Bagwell:Most people in your shoes don’t do that. They don’t like making predictions.

Tom Fitzgerald:Or you give yourself a wide band of error. So, you can kind of claim victory, whatever.

Eric Bagwell:Alright let’s talk about something really quick that we know is right because you go through and look at all the numbers, talk about a bond portfolio trend report that you put together quarterly and we want folks out there that are listening to get a copy of that, tell us about it and tell them where they can get it.

Tom Fitzgerald:Yes, Eric, I’ve been doing this report for probably almost eight or nine years now. But we bond to account for maybe 130 community banks, mostly in the southeast. But there’s some all over. And I think we’re up to about $12 billion in par value now that we account for. So, it’s a real good look at how the typical Community Bank portfolio is doing. So, I’ll take a look at how they’re invested, between mortgage banks, agencies, mutinies, and what the trend is in the performance, as far as bond yields, the duration, the unrealized gain or loss. So, it’s, again, it’s a real good picture of what’s going on and community bank portfolios. And again, we put that out every quarter, and I just got the first quarter done. Just in the last few days.

Eric Bagwell: Cool. Tell everybody where they can get that.

Tom Fitzgerald: Well, it’s at, forward slash bond report. And if they go there, they’ll fill out a little form, and then we’ll get that report right to them.

Eric Bagwell:That sounds great. Let’s go down to our interview with Dan Dutchnowski. Caleb, you want to tell us quick, just a little bit about Dan and how you guys met what he’s going to talk about?

Caleb Stevens: Yeah. So, when COVID started, I’d noticed that Planners First was at the forefront of really thinking there, how do we adapt to all the changes that we’ve had? And so video banking was a cool feature that they rolled out not too long ago, and tested it out me last week, and was impressed. And I was thinking, Dan would be a great guest on the show to talk about how has COVID impacted digital banking, how has it impacted marketing? We’ve talked a little bit about websites. And so, it’s a good discussion, and we’re excited for folks to hear it right now.
Well, Dan, it’s good to see you on the show today. We appreciate you coming on how are you doing?

Dan Dutchnowski: I’m doing great. Caleb, thank you. Thanks for having me.

Caleb Stevens: It’s an honor to have you tell us a little bit about your role. And everything you do Planners First and maybe a little bit about how you got into banking.

Dan Dutchnowski: Yes, I would love to do a little bit about the bank, the bank itself, Planners First Bank is a community bank based in Middle Georgia, we have approximately 380 million in assets, eight locations, including an operation center. The bank has been around for a while 125 years old, the eighth oldest bank in Georgia, with less than 100 employees, myself in general. My role here at the bank is I’m the Chief Marketing Officer and the Chief Deposit Officer. Many people often ask what’s the chief deposit officer do which really, I oversee the deposit products, I oversee our Treasury Department, our digital banking products, such as online banking, mobile banking, as I mentioned, marketing, anything related to marketing as my responsibility.
And then our solution center, which is a new group that we formed here at the bank, which handles all of the calls video banking, and our chat feature. As far as my background, I started in banking back in 2000 and went to work for a bank up in your area worked up in Alpharetta for the net bank, and net bank FSB, which was located just north of Atlanta up in Alpharetta, and kind of cut my teeth on banking there limited on now. But it was a very innovative bank. And it’s kind of ahead of its time to a certain extent, but very thankful for that opportunity. And I’ve had the opportunity to work for commercial banks, community banks, startup De Novo Banks, E-trade fit in there at one point. So, I’ve been around, I guess you could say I’ve been around the block.

Tom Fitzgerald:Well, it sounds like Dan, a lot of community bankers, you’ve worn a lot of hats during your career. And I’m sure a lot of our listeners can relate to that. This is the obligatory COVID question that we have to ask everybody this year, from a marketing perspective and COVID. How has that changed your marketing approach? And what are some of the things you think bankers need to think about they as they approach their marketing plans in this kind of post-pandemic, COVID world?

Dan Dutchnowski: No, that’s a great question. So, I think it’s a part of what you would expect, I think a greater emphasis on digital marketing is critical. So, your usual suspects or Google AdWords or SEO, or your social media, as marketers, we want to go to where the people are. And that’s where they are. So, you need to always focus on that. And one thing that we’ve tried to do is improve our Google ratings, and that we feel that can be a differentiator for us. I was joking this morning with my staff, I said, people search for their restaurants based on ratings. They look for trampolines based on ratings, and they look for financial services based on Google ratings. So, we need to make certain that we’re posting good ratings.
So, I think that’s another differentiator. And there’s a lot of good solutions out there like go to the site that can help you with that. I think streaming services are good and are very popular at this point, I think it improved the website, I think you need to make certain that it’s fresh, and it’s current, and it’s updated. And as bankers are not always the best at updating our website. So, I think that’s always an area of opportunity. Marketing through online banking, again, we miss a lot of our customers because it goes straight to the mobile app, or they go straight to online banking.
So, we need to make certain we’re taking advantage of the online banking, channel, and marketing to our customers. I think some of the old tools are still good, like Eblast sending out newsletters, welcome email series is good. And I think just really taking advantage of every opportunity if it’s a call if it’s a chat if it’s a drive-through interaction, and now the branches are opening back up. I think that’s another great way to interact. And then also, in particular, we just implemented video banking. And that’s a great way for us to also market to our customers. And we have a personal one-to-one interaction through video.

Caleb Stevens: Yes, let’s spend a little bit of time on the video banking side of things. So, I told you this Dan, I went on last week and tested it out and was very impressed got easy, answer right there from one of your folks. And I just told her, I said, I’m not a customer, I’m part of one of your correspondent banks and just here to test it out. I know Dan, and I’m cool. Even the ability to send and receive documents via that platform. Talk about why video banking was COVID sort of the catalyst for it or was that in the works before COVID talk about the video banking feature you guys have?

Dan Dutchnowski: Yes, no, that’s a great question. So, video banking came up right around the time that COVID hit, we started looking at video banking. And it’s it was a featured article on the financial brand, which is a publication that I review pretty much daily on part of their E Newsletter they receive and, and the vendor that we use pop bio was featured in, in the financial brand. And it just kind of talked about the importance of video banking, how it’s taken off, specifically with credit unions, they had embraced it and reached out to our holding company CEO, Dan Spade, if anybody knows Dan, he is a very innovative and a very forward-thinking individual and was not afraid of technology.
And he loved the idea on the concept. And we thought it would make sense, especially with COVID hitting. And it’s been a great tool for us, especially when we needed a customer signature, or when we want to demonstrate a product or in handling disputes, in particular, that’s been very beneficial, talking to the customer through things. So, it’s kind of a perfect combination of technology and personal interaction. That’s how I like to describe it because you get the personal interaction, but you can sign things electronically, you can chat, you can share your screen, you can control the customer screen. So, there are so many great things you can do with the video banking solution.

Caleb Stevens: And I would say to it’s been kind of cool to see even the older generation adapted to a lot of these things you’re talking about sort of getting stereotyped as well, that’s a millennial thing. That’s a Gen Z thing. And we talk about that a lot on this show that the older generation, especially during COVID is embraced and grabbed on to all things digital banking. So, I don’t know if that’s a trend you’ve seen as well, at your bank. But that’s something we’ve certainly seen.

Dan Dutchnowski: It is, yes, we’ve seen just in general, with digital banking video, we were looking at some of our numbers this morning with scorecard numbers from March and the online banking, adoption, I should say, conversion ratios are gone up significantly. I mean, that we’re talking 60 plus percent of our customer base is now using digital banking. And honestly, before I joined, I think it was below 45%. So, we’re a community bank or in some rural areas, in particular. So, to see those numbers, increasing speaks volumes and speaks to the importance of digital and video with our older customers. So, we have an older population and customers too.

Tom Fitzgerald:And, Dan, can you recommend to our listeners, I’m sure there’s a lot of the older executives are sitting there thinking I know, I’ve got to do something on my technology, and as far as kind of upping my game in that area. Is there one or two things that you can recommend that they start with maybe there’s a mobile app that they need to develop if they haven’t already, or trying to kind of create more leverage from that mobile app if they have one? Just a couple of ideas that you think they could move on pretty quickly.

Dan Dutchnowski: Yes, that’s a great idea. In my opinion, a lot of the vendors that support community banks have stepped up their game. I think they’re doing a much better job than what they did historically. So, we weren’t, particularly jack Henry, where Jack Henry bank and Jack Henry had some great digital services. They offer a good mobile solution, a good online banking solution, good Treasury solutions out there. I think FIS does a good job have worked with them. I’ve worked with Pfizer, Q2 does a great job.
So those are just a handful of the kind of the big vendors out there. I guess you could say when it comes to online and mobile banking. There’s a lot of great solutions with the video I mentioned POPio is kind of the industry leader, that’s POP IO as the name of their company. And the gentleman that started POPio was the same gentleman that created the ITM. He sold the technology that NCR and then he went on to create POPio. So, it’s just taking it one step further. But there are so many great vendors out there that we can partner with nowadays, but I have been impressed with the big guy’s Jack Henry, POPio, Pfizer stepping it up and allowing us to compete with the big banks.

Caleb Stevens: That’s a good segue into the next topic we’d love to cover is Fin Techs. And the more and more it seems like they’re challenging. Traditional FDIC banks, you hear a lot about Fin Techs. In the news, you hear a lot about these Neo banks talk about the rise of Fin Techs, and what are some of the main ways you see them challenging traditional banks?

Dan Dutchnowski: That’s a great question. So, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, in part in part because someone just reminded me of my own NetBank days, and although NetBank wasn’t technically a FinTech. They were one of the first online banks in the country. And they got their charter back in 1996. So, thinking about that now, it seems like forever ago, it makes me feel old. But I started with him in 2000. But I guess, the equivalent of today’s FinTech and back then that technology just wasn’t there. And the net banks of the world and the allies and the IMG directs, were so far ahead when it came to technology back then.
But I feel that the vendors I just spoke about jack Henry POPio, Pfizer, have done a good job of leveling the playing field, there’s always going to be some new technologies, some little thing that comes along that they can improve upon, but I feel like our partners are doing a better job than they’ve maybe done historically, in the way that they do that is you can partner with them one to one or they’ve done a good job of just really improving technology on their own and rolling it out to the entire base. But community banks, I think, really need to take advantage of that relationship with our partners, they need to partner with them, it needs to be a relationship, they need to explore the options that they offer if you’re just going to go with a basic package, that they sell you out of the box, that’s probably not going to be enough. But if you partner with him, maybe if you build some one-off integration with him, that’s going to improve things. So, that’s where I think the benefits are,

Tom Fitzgerald:Let’s talk a minute about the perspective of what we’ve learned in the last year with going from a face-to-face environment where we’ve gone to a digital environment. And you’ve done great at it you’ve worked at and you’ve developed real expertise in it, I guess I would say, kind of talk about what you see is as the advantage or convenience of a digital offering. And that historical traditional value of the face to face, and maybe how we’re going to take that as we kind of move away from the pandemic, how both are going to kind of Co-exist together as we go forward.

Dan Dutchnowski: Yes, I think they have to work together, I don’t think you can take one over the other. I think a lot of people expect, rightfully so and I’ve been in the same boat for a long time now. Since I’ve kind of cut my teeth on banking with an Internet-only bank, I’ve always been expected a lot from the digital side of banking. And so, I think consumers going to expect to have all the features and benefits of what would traditionally be an online-only bank. But I think they also want that convenience. And they want to know that there’s a banker, physically sitting somewhere, or that they can even interact with virtually to answer their questions, or just make them feel better about the situation. So, I think it’s a balance, I don’t think they can compete against each other.
I think there needs to be a synergy between the two. One of the questions we always had, and I’ve implemented several online applications over my career is who gets the benefit of that new account? Does it go to the bank? Or is it a separate group? Well, over time, I’ve learned that it needs to go to an individual or a specific banker that can help manage that relationship. And typically, it’s assigned to a branch where that person is close to residing or working. Because there’s got to be that synergy, they can’t compete against each other. And I think that’s what consumers learn. I’ve seen and read a lot of studies about millennials. They love technology, but they want to know that they can go meet with somebody in person. And maybe they don’t need to go physically to the branch to meet with them. But they want to know they could pick up their phone and use video banking and see Dan or see Jenny in our solution center. So, I think it has to be balanced and it as to be a good synergy.

Caleb Stevens: Yes, that reminds me of a quote that we’ve set around here a decent amount lately is you don’t have to be in-person to do something personal. But you don’t want to lose the personal aspect of banking, whether that is face-to-face or whether that’s face to face via video like you and I are right now. So digital is great but don’t lose the personal touch. Let’s transition and talk a little bit about websites. In your opinion. What are some keys that bankers need to be thinking about in terms of their website? You mentioned earlier, the fact that as bankers, we’re not known for necessarily being the most creative or innovative folks on the block. And so having a clean and clear website, I think is important but often overlooked to talk about that.

Dan Dutchnowski: Yes, I’ve always felt that it’s important. My guest COVID is probably maybe just heightened it a little bit more. It’s your face, the website is the bank’s face. I know, traditionally, it’s been the branch, but there are fewer and fewer branches out there. It’s your personality, it’s who you are as a financial institution. And if it’s outdated, if it’s using generic images, if it’s just not personalized and doesn’t look fresh, doesn’t have your products or services doesn’t highlight your team, doesn’t highlight what you’re doing in the community. I think it’s a mistake.
And I felt like it needs to be refreshed often, we just updated our website, and we changed our URL, we’re trying to go back to our roots to a certain extent we’re going to bank planners is our website, it was bank PSB. And we try our best to highlight when new products that we rolled out as things we were doing a really good job of highlighting the zings druggie core products, these are new checking products that we’ve rolled out that we think are going to be beneficial to and of interest to all of our customers, but in particular priority younger customers to be attracted to us. We also have video banking, we’ve integrated professional, local photos into the website that features our different locations. So, it scrolls through, it’s not your stamp. Now, we do have some models and other images in there. But we also try to highlight our locations and our landscape for lack of better term. So, I think it’s critical to have a good website, and no longer going to just be a dynamic website. I mean, it needs to be fresh, positive, clean, it needs to be dynamic. Scott works on every browser and every device, but it needs to be more than avid, it needs to be fresh and updated and change our regular basis.

Tom Fitzgerald:Sounds like a living, breathing organism that has to be fed and kind of nurtured constantly. I know, sometimes you look at that project, I’ve got to address the website, and they do it and then sort of it gets forgotten or pushed away. And that sounds like you’re saying that’s the worst thing you can do that it has to be sort of a constant nurturing of that site.

Dan Dutchnowski: It does. And I couldn’t agree more with you, Tom, I think a website, unfortunately, with us bankers, you’re right and usually there’s so much content. And once you throw it out there, you can kind of set it and forget about it. But you really can’t. I think part of the issue with having too much content out there is it does get overlooked. It’s too much for the consumer or the business, they just want to be able to search your site easily find the information they need, they want to get the search feature. I think video is key. I think everybody loves to watch the 32nd video as opposed to reading 10 minutes of content. So, the more you can use video, I think the better. I think just quick and easy fun integration is good. You know that there are so many things you can do to improve a website. But yes, I couldn’t agree with you more, it needs to be managed effectively. And I’m so fortunate here at the bank, I have a lady that works that I work with and she does a tremendous job of managing not only our website but our social media. And I think she’s second to none.

Tom Fitzgerald:Sounds like a key position for any bank I think going forward in this decade if not longer.

Dan Dutchnowski: Yes, it is she is just great. Fortunately, she and I think to have a similar vision so we don’t typically disagree on what the site should look like or what our marketing and digital effects should be. So, we get along great but that is a critical position to a financial institution. It’s so different to you think about us bankers, we’re so numbers-driven, but you need somebody that understands banking but also can be somewhat creative and think outside the box so it’s a different position that’s for sure.

Caleb Stevens: Well, if folks want to get in touch with you, Dan and learn more about what you do learn more about Planners First. How can they get in touch with you guys?

Dan Dutchnowski: Well, they can certainly go onto our website which is or if they want to contact me directly, I welcome their feedback or questions they can contact me and you have to bear with me because I have a long last name. So, it’s

Caleb Stevens: Fantastic. Well, Dan, we appreciate your time, but look forward to seeing you virtually over LinkedIn. I know you and I connect over LinkedIn and email, decent amounts. So, we appreciate your time and I know our listeners will benefit from this discussion. So, thanks again for coming on.

Dan Dutchnowski: All right. Thank you. I appreciate it. It’s been a pleasure.


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