OVERVIEW
Challenge
Bolster brand recognition in local community by channeling cost-effective technology to improve customer experience, boost engagement and differentiate from area competitors and larger banks.

Solution
Through Card@Once®, the in-branch instant issuance solution from CPI Card Group, Altamaha Bank & Trust (Altamaha Bank) gained valuable, efficient on-demand printing capabilities. The cost-effective solution gave the bank the tools to launch an engaging, localized marketing initiative, offering customers new payment cards branded with mascots and logos of high schools in the community.

Results
Whether they are signing up for an account or replacing an old card, Altamaha Bank customers now enjoy the convenience of receiving new, specially designed payment cards instantly and being able to put them to use right away. Upon the implementation of Card@Once®, the bank saw increased demand for new cards among existing customers, growth in its overall customer base and all-around positive feedback on the customer experience they provided – helping fortify brand loyalty and customer retention.

BACKGROUND
Taking into account the rapid, constant evolution of technology and consumers’ fast-developing taste for immediate gratification in products and services, Altamaha Bank must implement a solution that positions it as a tech-driven innovator equipped to meet 21st century, on-demand needs – and prove that a bank can be a decades-old community establishment and a leading local provider of cutting- edge offerings at the same time.

Formed in Uvalda, Georgia in 1966, Altamaha Bank has deep ties to its community, upholding an established standard of excellence over the many decades since its founding. Today, the bank has grown to four branch locations, serving 5,000 customers in Vidalia, Uvalda and Hazlehurst and surrounding communities. With over $160 million in total assets, Altamaha Bank’s passion for consistently delivering high-quality products and services to its customers remains steadfast.

Altamaha Bank decided to implement Card@Once® to provide customers with an on-demand experience for their debit and credit cards, allowing them to come into any of their branches and be issued a new card instantly upon request. Adopting the solution provided the bank with a cost-effective, technical edge over small and large local competitors that proved surprising and impressive to customers. Furthermore, the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model behind Card@Once® ensured that Altamaha Bank’s staff were not tied to any responsibilities in terms of maintaining or updating the solution, allowing that time, effort and resources to be allocated where they counted most: serving the bank’s customers and core business objectives.

THE CHALLENGE
Despite the many decades it had been serving customers in the area, Altamaha Bank found itself challenged locally by newcomers and bigger, nationally established competitors over recent years. The bank’s long and rich history in the community – and shared roots with local residents – were obscured by the burgeoning competitive landscape and evolving consumers. This left Altamaha Bank needing to revamp its brand visibility, before its associations with the past became too strong for emerging generations of customers to see its place in their future.

As a result, the bank put plans into motion to establish itself as an advanced, tech-savvy organization that evolves with its customers’ needs. A major component to accomplish this involved updating the customer experience, leaving Altamaha Bank in search of a solution that not only aligned under its longtime commitment to excellence in service, but also reflected the new preferences of changing consumers. Additionally, as a community bank, Altamaha Bank didn’t have an overabundance of budget and resources – and needed to invest strategically in technology that would support their objectives without putting a strain on the organization’s finances and staff.

Card@Once®, paired with the reliable, high-quality support from CPI Card Group, would become a magic bullet-like solution for Altamaha Bank – achieving the balancing act of efficiently advancing the bank’s technical fortitude for customers, while remaining cost-effective and allowing staff to be relatively hands-off as far as product maintenance and updates.

TRANSITION TO CPI CARD GROUP’S CARD@ONCE® SOLUTION
In 2015, Altamaha Bank initiated a search for an instant issuance solution. As the search progressed, a fork emerged in the road – the bank had to decide between an in-house solution from one of their longtime technology providers or the SaaS-based, Card@Once® solution. After a thorough evaluation and side-by-side comparison, Altamaha Bank found Card@Once® to be the stronger, strategic option to meet their needs.

By selecting Card@Once®, Altamaha Bank was freed of the responsibility and management of several IT infrastructure pieces that come with an in-house instant issuance solution – including hosting servers and keys, ensuring security and overseeing software upgrades and licenses. As a result, the bank avoided having to allocate budget and staff resources to the maintenance of an in-house solution and didn’t have to create space for large, bulky hardware. Altamaha Bank’s IT staff was instead able to focus its time and efforts working directly with customers, developing new applications and more.

On top of these benefits, a key factor behind the bank’s decision to choose Card@Once® was cost. Altamaha Bank found that the cost of purchasing and implementing an in-house instant issuance at a single location rivaled the cost of deploying Card@Once® at all four of its branches – roughly $28,000. Given the bank’s greater goal of competitively differentiating itself as a tech-forward organization to customers, Altamaha Bank understood that all four of its locations would benefit from having an instant issuance solution onsite – to ensure that anyone could come into a branch and walk out with a card without delay.

The bank began the Card@Once® implementation across its locations in March 2015. The journey to getting the instant issuance solution up and running took approximately two months to complete, as Altamaha Bank and CPI Card Group diligently worked through the intricacies and compatibility hurdles with the bank’s existing technology vendors and IT infrastructure. In the end, the implementation went smoothly without issue, with the bank finding the entire process seamless and well-executed overall.

RESULTS
The customer reception to the implementation of Card@Once® at Altamaha Bank branches was, for lack of a better word, instant. Community residents were overwhelmingly impressed with the bank’s new capabilities and the local perception of Altamaha Bank as a forward-thinking brand and tech-driven financial institution was effectively seeded. Through Card@Once®, customers received their new payment cards within minutes rather than days – all the while saving the bank approximately $1 for every card printed and provided in-branch rather than distributed through traditional card ordering and delivery.

Instant issuance was a rare capability for banks in the southeastern Georgia region – and Altamaha Bank was extending the convenience and rapid gratification afforded by the solution to customers at not one, but all four of its locations. Although older institutions often tend to be associated with a resistance to change or a lack of appetite for evolution, one thing had become undoubtedly clear to the localities served by Altamaha Bank: this independent community bank had been around awhile but was far from old-fashioned – and could deliver an innovative customer experience that its younger competitors could not.

With Card@Once® up and running, Altamaha Bank decided to initiate a new, localized marketing campaign that showcased both its profile as a longtime community establishment and its new brand positioning as a leading innovator among local financial institutions. Understanding the deeply rooted culture of football fandom and local pride that defined the communities it served, Altamaha Bank partnered with high schools in the area to launch payment cards branded with their team logos and mascots.

Altamaha Bank provided the necessary imagery and materials to CPI Card Group’s graphics team, which both incorporated and creatively built upon each high school’s branding to develop customized, distinct cards representing each team. The bank then launched its marketing initiative around the new cards – powered by Card@Once® instant issuance – and quickly saw a positive reception from the community.

Taking something as simple as a debit or credit card and turning it into an opportunity to show pride and support for one’s community was a remarkable success, proving to be very popular among local residents. In one fell swoop, Altamaha Bank was able to prove itself as both a valuable, veteran member of the local community as well as a pioneer introducing novel, on-demand convenience to banking customers in the area.

REACTION
“It was really something to see the surprise on our customers’ faces when our bank – the same bank their parents and grandparents used – featured an instant issuance solution that reflected a technical fortitude beyond what might be expected at an older, legacy bank,” said Shan Venable, chief technology officer and senior vice president, Altamaha Bank. “Through the implementation of Card@Once® as well as our subsequent campaign with local high school- branded payment cards, CPI Card Group has consistently exceeded expectations and been a valuable partner in our efforts to boost our brand recognition with the community.”

Venable added, “Beyond the great reception from our customers, the cost-efficiency enabled by Card@Once® alone makes it a smart investment.” For Altamaha Bank, bringing in a brand new, convenient offering for customers without having to worry about any of the complicated maintenance and upkeep responsibilities has proven hugely beneficial – and knowing the CPI support staff is available for whatever we might need only adds to the value created by Card@Once®. “We set out to revitalize our brand and show residents in the area that our rich history in the community in no way compromises the level of innovation we are capable of delivering – and Card@Once® has helped play a defining role in bringing us closer to that objective.”

For more information on Card@Once®, CPI Card Group’s instant issuance solution, visit: https://www.cardatonce.com
For more information about Altamaha Bank and Trust, visit: https://www.altamahabank.com/