Enhancing IT Strategy and Planning with vCIO Services

As technology constantly evolves, financial institutions must likewise adapt to best serve the needs of their customers—a truth Farmers Bank is familiar with after being in business for more than a century. Founded in 1904, Farmers Bank has grown from a single location in Pomeroy, Ohio, to seven branches in Ohio and West Virginia, providing customers and businesses with a full suite of services that includes consumer and commercial lending.

Paul Reed, President and CEO of Farmers Bank, attributes the bank’s longstanding success to its service-minded approach: “We focus on meeting customer needs and making our markets a better place to live and work by investing in our communities.” Over the last 15 years, the nearby region has experienced rapid growth and development, and Farmers Bank was a key player in this economic expansion.

The bank recognized that continuing to build customer relationships would require it to leverage technology to its fullest potential. To remain in step with the rapidly changing nature of technology, Farmers Bank knew its IT strategy needed enhancing. However, the bank operates in a rural market, which leads to challenges in finding a large talent pool for IT-related roles, such as a chief information officer (CIO). So, like many community financial institutions, Farmers Bank relies on vendors for a variety of services, and CSI proved to be the perfect partner to take the bank’s IT strategy to the next level.

“I think our future looks brighter with this partnership, and I think the board and senior management are sleeping more soundly at night because we’re on top of the situation.”

Paul Reed
President and CEO of Farmers Bank

How vCIO Services Transform IT Strategy

CSI’s virtual CIO services allow institutions like Farmers Bank to partner with seasoned professionals to strengthen IT strategy and planning. vCIO services provide a holistic approach to IT strategy and ensure an institution’s technology aligns with overall business goals.

After researching several vendors, Farmers Bank discovered that CSI’s vCIO services deliver all the IT skills, talents and experience that are difficult to find locally, allowing the bank to benefit from this knowledge without the cost of employing a dedicated CIO.

According to Reed, CSI’s vCIO team gave the bank a more deliberate direction as it relates to technology by developing a comprehensive IT strategic plan, which not only serves to strengthen compliance but also empowers the bank to take control of its IT destiny. The bank now possesses a framework to guide its IT decisions, objectives and priorities. By working with the vCIOs at CSI, the bank is leveraging technology to achieve its goals, including enhancing customer service and supporting revenue generation.

“I’ve been with the bank 40 years, and although the last 12 months have been challenging, they have also been rewarding and knowledgeable because of our involvement with the vCIO program. It is such a great team, and I don’t know how the bank would get by without them.”

Paul Reed President and CEO of Farmers Bank

Before partnering with CSI, the bank found it difficult to look ahead and plan for changes on the horizon—a common sentiment considering the fast-paced world of technology. But with guidance from the virtual CIO team in developing a functional planning process, the bank has a vision for how its IT infrastructure will support current and planned operations, as well as long-term goals and associated resource allocation.

The vCIO team also worked with the bank to provide a better understanding of its budgets and end-of-life planning for equipment. After transforming its approach to planning, the bank now has effective IT budgets and can rest assured that future technology investments will align with its existing business strategy and avoid the pitfalls of purchasing unnecessary tools or equipment.

Further, with a lean in-house IT staff, Farmers Bank had prioritized other needs above revisiting and refining its existing IT policies. But with vCIO guidance, the bank has strengthened its policies, including those outlining vendor management and security protocols. As the bank works with CSI to further enhance policies and prepare for upcoming audits, its in-house staff is now able to focus on other projects to benefit the institution and its customers instead of balancing competing technology initiatives.

A Partner in Compliance: ‘CSI Knows the FFIEC Manual Forward and Backward’

Among the benefits of CSI’s virtual CIO services is leveraging the team’s extensive knowledge of compliance for financial institutions. CSI’s vCIO team is well-versed in the expectations and requirements from the Federal Financial Institution Examinations Council (FFIEC) and provides Farmers Bank with practical and actionable feedback for risk mitigation. Or, as Reed says, “The vCIO team knows the FFIEC exam manual forward and backward.”

CSI stays on top of evolving compliance regulations, guiding the bank through changes and FFIEC requirements, such as board oversight of strategic planning and enterprise risk management. Between IT steering committee meetings and direction from the vCIO team, Reed says examiners are thrilled with how much the bank’s knowledge has increased, especially at the board level.

With the vCIO team monitoring the technology landscape and emerging IT issues, Reed says Farmers Bank is well-equipped to stay ahead of regulators and meet exam requirements: “I think our future looks brighter with this partnership, and I think the board and senior management are sleeping more soundly at night because we’re on top of the situation.”

Embracing Technology Opportunities with Virtual CIO Services

It’s no secret that effectively leveraging technology can be challenging, especially with layers of complex regulations and an evolving financial services landscape. Reed credits CSI’s vCIO program with changing the mindset at the bank to view technology as an opportunity his team is now capable of fully optimizing, instead of an obstacle to overcome.

With this partnership, Farmers Bank has confidence it is covered from a technology and regulatory perspective, allowing the bank to focus on what it does best: investing in the local community and helping customers succeed.

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