2 min read October 2021 — Craft Bank is an Atlanta community bank that gives customers the ability to craft their banking experience. In an interview with Focus: Atlanta, President and CEO Ross Mynatt discussed the challenges of opening a bank during a pandemic, the influx of residents to Atlanta, the importance of technology and cybersecurity, and the changes in office and retail.
What were the challenges of opening Craft Bank amid the pandemic?
I have said that it was the most difficult process of my career, not only due to COVID but also the recession and the atmosphere of social unrest that deeply affected Atlanta. I’m incredibly proud of what our board, team and business partners were able to accomplish. Our story is not unique, we are not the only company that struggled, lives were lost, businesses were shut down, careers ended; it was, and it continues to be, a catastrophic series of events. I love our story and how we overcame the challenges we faced, but I do realize that many, both companies and individuals, had it worse and faced real crises and catastrophes.
How does Craft Bank differentiate itself from other banks in Atlanta?
We know our strengths and we are focused on continuing to focus on those areas. We’re good at making commercial loans, whether a C&I loan, a commercial real estate loan or working capital. We’re also very good at SBA loans and at gathering deposits and talking to businesses about our treasury services platform and their cash management needs. We’re very collaborative with our customers, we love meeting with them and letting them know we want to work with them, know and understand their business and come up with ways they can save or make money. We are consumer-centric, and we’re willing to take the time to help our clients improve their businesses. We’re tech-savvy and understand the products that we are using.
How is Craft Bank capitalizing on the influx of new residents to Atlanta?
According to available data, sometime very soon, 25% of the U.S. population will live in the Southeast; Atlanta is uniquely positioned to take advantage of that migration. More companies are moving to or starting in the City, Fintech and the film industry continue to grow here and Amazon has developed a large presence. Business is booming, in our zip code there are over 1,800 businesses and we’re starting a direct marketing strategy to reach them. We’ve had nice articles written about us in the Atlanta Business Chronicle and are using direct mail pieces and smart social media strategies to reach potential customers. Additionally, we have an experienced team of bankers who have been in the Atlanta market for 20 to 40 years, so each of us has a banking customer base. As a startup, we must be smart and creative in how we get our name out there.
Have you noticed any shifts in demand for potential commercial office and retail space?
Retail and office space have been negatively impacted by COVID, however not to the extent it was predicted at the beginning of the pandemic. Office space has changed and will continue to change, but it’s not going away. Some companies have recently moved offices or increased their space. Companies are being smarter about the use of their spaces. As for retail, there is certainly a transition into online shopping. However, I think people still want to go out and have a shopping experience in small boutiques or in stores that offer the ability to experience the products they’re buying.
How is Craft Bank leveraging technology to better provide for its clients?
For us, it’s important to connect and empower our customers to do anything they want to do from a banking perspective through their cell phone, which is why we’ve partnered with one of the top players in the financial operating industry that is well known for its commitment to staying current and relevant concerning its digital platforms. Our clients can move money, initiate wires, do ACHs (automatic clearing house) and talk to us about loan requests electronically. We can also customize business operations; we’ve got the flexibility so that a business owner can determine which employees have which permissions from their mobile phone. If somebody never wants to set foot in Craft Bank and only wants to communicate electronically, we’ve got the capability and the functionality for that. That said, we’d love for you to come by, have a cup of coffee and talk about your business.
What improvements in cybersecurity has Craft Bank implemented?
We experience thousands of attacks weekly. To protect ourselves and our clients, we’ve partnered with Jack Henry & Associates, which includes the services of Gladiator, a cybersecurity company. We’ve also partnered with Finosec, a cybersecurity expert company, that runs tests and analysis on our servers and coaches us to do better. Additionally, we work with Bryan Smith, an outsource IT and cybersecurity expert who helps us understand possible vulnerabilities and how to protect ourselves. As we have learned, hacking is not a question of if, it’s a question of when, so we are keeping ourselves educated about all the threats and how to prevent them.
What is your outlook for the banking industry and for Craft Bank?
There is a vital role for both large, national banking and community banking, like ours. I think the future for community banking is going to continue to be very positive. As national banks struggle to be responsive, it becomes more difficult for business owners to sit with big bank decision-makers and ask questions regarding their businesses. At Craft, you can meet with the chief lending officer, the chief credit officer and the chief executive officer in the same room and at the same time. We understand not everybody necessarily wants or needs to be banked this way, but there is a large segment of the small to midsize business population that appreciates it.
Secondly, in the community bank segment, we understand the importance of being relevant in the digital age. We are engaged in the fintech community to understand what the next greatest thing is and include tech advancements for our clients.
Thirdly, we will continue to find outstanding outsource partners. Those alliances are going to be critical to the success of community banks going forward.
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