In today’s fast-paced, technology driven environment, managing community banks’ IT operations and networks have become a very time-consuming process to execute, especially for financial institutions looking to achieve strong growth, increase acquisitions, and build brand new institutions for their communities. The number of patch updates, reporting requirements, network troubleshooting, and regulatory compliance responsibilities are cumbersome for many IT professionals to handle while also working to keep bank operations running efficiently and seamlessly in various branches and locations.
Creating an Environment for Growth
Many community banks set out to build the best institutions for their communities, and when they’re successful, the next logical step is to expand. Morris Bank, headquartered in Dublin, Georgia, was on a mission to grow by offering more services, more locations, and more opportunities for their customers to thrive. A major challenge for banks that take on this task is ensuring IT operations are implemented and managed effectively, especially during these periods of growth and change, and that the institution is compliant with all regulatory requirements.
Larry Schenck, IT Officer at Morris Bank, realized the bank was already engaged with a provider that could help him more efficiently manage and meet the growing IT needs of the institution. Morris Bank has been a Safe Systems customer for 15 years. Schenck knew that they understood the demands of the banking industry and could adequately support the bank’s IT and compliance requirements. After careful consideration, Morris Bank decided to implement Safe Systems’ NetComply® One IT network management solution in 2016.
As a community bank with limited staff and branches in several locations, Morris Bank relies heavily on third-party providers, such as Safe Systems, to offer new opportunities to streamline processes. NetComply One helps Morris Bank efficiently manage all important network tasks including automated patch management, network monitoring, qualified alerting, and detailed reporting for examiners. Since the bank implemented Safe Systems to manage its IT network, the IT team has been able to focus on more revenue-generating opportunities and market expansions that have led to great successes for the bank.
The last 10 years brought on a lot of change and growth for Morris Bank. The bank grew its total assets from roughly $180 million to $980 million and added seven locations to equal nine branches throughout Middle and South Georgia in Dublin, Gray, Gordon, Warner Robins, Statesboro, and Brooklet. The bank was able to grow so successfully by not only acquiring other smaller banks and their assets but also by opening branches in desirable locations. In fact, after being opened only two-years, the branch in Gray was the fastest growing bank branch in the state of Georgia.
“At Morris Bank, we have a great management team and an amazing staff that enable us to keep growing and continue to provide great service to our customers,” said Schenck. “Our vendors play a key part in our success as well, and working with Safe Systems has helped us to simplify IT processes, meet compliance guidelines, and provide continuity for our internal team and our community as a whole.”
Overcoming Challenges with Network Management
Acquiring banks and branches is a complex process, especially in terms of IT integration. All equipment and systems must be brought onto the same network and operate through the same infrastructure. Compatibility is not always easy, and often, the larger the bank or branch being acquired, the more complicated the task.
One of the bank’s recent acquisitions included three branches with 40 employees; more than 40 workstations; several servers; and additional devices and systems that needed to be set up on the network. First, all systems and devices must be tested for updated patches and antivirus. While this can be a cumbersome task, Safe Systems’ network management system enabled the bank to efficiently manage and complete the process. “Onboarding new machines and getting all systems set up on the network is a challenging task during an acquisition,” said Schenck. “With the reporting NetComply One offers, we can easily see which machines need updates, remedy any issues and have more visibility into the network to efficiently manage integrations.”
In addition to the reporting from NetComply One, Morris Bank relies on Safe Systems’ Strategic Advisors to help them navigate the processes needed to complete integrations. With the knowledge the advisors provide, the bank has been able to complete the challenging tasks of ensuring all systems are working in a compliant manner and all branches are running efficiently.
The patch management component of NetComply One has also been very important for Morris Bank. The bank has approximately 250 computers to manage and keep up to date with patches, which is critical to information security and combating cyber threats. “While Safe Systems manages and provides the patches, they are also very careful to not just arbitrarily patch machines and equipment without proper testing,” says Schenck. “Safe Systems tests each patch to ensure it will work with our current systems and ensure no holes will be left for hackers to exploit.”
Building a Strong Partnership
Morris Bank relies on a number of vendors to offer its customers key products and services that give them more convenience and control. Over the years, they have added additional Safe Systems services, including their Vendor Management solution. This solution enables a more efficient risk assessment and due diligence process, as well as provides the ability to proactively manage vendor renewals, centralize all important documents, and have detailed information to share with auditors, examiners, senior management, and the Board.
“Regulators are more closely scrutinizing the vendor management process within banks, and with Safe Systems’ vendor management solution, we are able to easily provide the proper documentation to examiners in an efficient manner,” said Schenck.
Through its partnership with Safe Systems, Morris Bank has been able to expand its reach in all areas of technology, compliance, and security. The bank receives positive feedback from regulators on its network management and vendor management programs and has enhanced its compliance posture.
“Through the years, Safe Systems has been a valuable and trusted partner to our bank,” said Schenck. “The solutions Safe Systems provide enable us to give our customers a better banking experience as well as a more efficient work environment for our employees. I worry less and sleep better at night knowing we have Safe Systems’ solutions running in our bank.”