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In today's world, banking services delivered faster is name of the game

September 29, 2019 at 1:42 a.m.

Peeking into the mobile banking world reveals some interesting facts and figures. Customers today, especially younger customers who grew up with smartphones, rely more and more on mobile and online banking to conduct business -- and they expect those services to be delivered fast and to be easy to use at anytime and anywhere they are, be it at home, the office or while traveling.

Speed of delivery trumps all else.

Five seconds, about the time it took to read the first sentence in this column, is too long to wait for an app to load. "Try to log into an app that takes five seconds to load," says Alex Carriles, chief digital officer at Simmons Bank. "It feels like an eternity. It's like time is standing still."

Some interesting statistics jump out when considering just how important mobility has become to banking customers. Customers turn to mobile banking for some basic services: 90% use it to check their account balances; 79% review recent transactions; 59% make bill payments; 57% rely on mobile banking to transfer funds.

Where mobile banking is used is even more interesting: 79% are on the couch at home; 47% are in bed; 36% are at work; 23% are in the bathroom; 21% rely on it while socializing with family or friends.

Not surprisingly, younger folks use mobile banking more often than any other age group. Age groups using mobile banking at least once a week or more often: 48% of those ages 18-24; 35% of those 25-34; 33% of customers age 45-54; 15% in the 55-64 age group; 11% of those 65 or older.

Statistics were compiled by global research company Statista. The information clearly demonstrates why financial institutions are concentrating on deploying more mobile products as customers across all age groups adopt the service.

"The reality is there are people across every generation who are apt to use technology," said Angie Garrett, executive director of digital innovation and strategic analysis for Arvest Bank. "It's not just about age. We choose the tools that make our lives easier."


Looking back, Simmons Bank of Pine Blue has been aggressive for decades in deploying technologies. The bank is getting ready to launch a new mobile banking app in mid-October and plans to have an innovation lab operating by the end of the year.

Simmons lays claim to some important milestones in the use of technology to improve banking. Simmons boasts of being the first Arkansas bank to use a computer, installed in 1958 in Pine Bluff to process cotton receipts. The computer, which really was a "tabulating machine" that used punch cards, automated a process where everything was done manually.

Then, on March 23, 1984, a Simmons customer withdrew $285 from an automated teller machine in Sydney, Australia, in the first intercontinental transaction ever made using an ATM.

Mary Davis, 25 at the time, was in Sydney for vacation. Her father was a vice president at Simmons and was instrumental in helping to deploy the technology.

"My family was always an early adopter of technology so we loved that kind of stuff," said Davis, who withdrew the money at an ATM on Bondi Beach using a Visa card.

"The uniqueness of it was that it was the first time you could go somewhere else and get a cash advance that wasn't in U.S. dollars," Davis said. "It came out of my U.S. account, but it was in Australian dollars."

The transaction required cooperation between Simmons, Visa executives and banking teams in Australia. Teams from each were monitoring the withdrawal as it was taking place to make sure it went smoothly. "The stars really had to be aligned to make that happen," said Barry Crow, former chief financial officer at Simmons. "That wasn't a simple transaction back in those days."

Crow, who worked at Simmons from 1970-2005, said the bank always welcomed technological improvements. "We knew we could do things better with technology," Crow said. "We didn't run from technology. We embraced it."


Bragging rights, apparently, are important even in the banking industry.

Arkansas is tied for fifth in the nation with banks based here that have assets of more than $10 billion. Arkansas has four banks that have pushed the state to a leading position: Bank OZK of Little Rock; Pine Bluff-based Simmons Bank; Arvest Bank of Bentonville; and Centennial Bank, owned by Home BancShares of Conway.

California leads the nation with nine banks that have more than $10 billion in assets. New York, Texas and Utah are all tied for second place with five banks each; and Arkansas falls right behind in a tie for fifth with Georgia and Massachusetts.

"We're pretty proud of that statistic," said Arkansas State Bank Commissioner Candace Franks. "It demonstrates just how great a vibrant banking community we have here in Arkansas. Plus, it gives me bragging rights with my fellow commissioners."


Arkansas banking, and the Northwest Arkansas business community, lost a leading figure earlier this month.

Don Pitts, chairman of United Bank and chairman and chief executive officer of United Built Homes, died on Sept. 9 at age 80. Pitts' first job was as a clerk in his cousins' grocery store. Shortly after joining United Built Homes as a salesman, at age 22 he was named best salesman and his career carried him all the way to top leadership positions at the Arkansas-founded company, which expanded to surrounding states.

Pitts went on to parlay his purchase of Little River Savings & Loan of Ashdown in 1978 into a major banking institution, United Bank of Springdale.

Pitts is remembered for his work ethic and dedication to customers, values he demonstrated throughout his career. "I don't think I'm [of] above-average intelligence," he once said. "If I've got an edge, it's being willing to work long, hard hours. That and pleasing the customer. I treat them as I want to be treated."

That's an important lesson for us all.


Mark your calendars -- the season for third-quarter earnings announcements is approaching.

Home BancShares Inc. of Conway is scheduled to release earnings before the market opens on Oct. 17. After the release, bank management will hold a conference call to review earnings at 1 p.m. Central time. Home BancShares owns Centennial Bank. You can listen to the live call by dialing (877) 508-9586 and asking to connect to the Home BancShares conference call.

Simmons First National Corp. of Pine Bluff plans to release third-quarter earnings, also before market opening, on Oct. 22. Shortly after earnings are out, at 9 a.m. Central time, the Simmons management team will host a live conference call. You can listen to that one at (866) 298-7926; ask to be connected to the Simmons First National conference call.

Column ideas or recommendations? Thoughts or musings that need pursuing? Contact me at or at (501) 378-3567.

SundayMonday Business on 09/29/2019

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