With an office that sits within earshot of the teller area, Central Bank of the Ozarks’ Jamie Clark said he’s constantly hearing the staff greeting customers by name. It’s an occurrence the community bank president said takes place in the Marshfield facility “probably eight out of 10 times.”
“And if they don’t know who they are, they’re trying to figure out who they are,” he said. “Because that’s part of our jobs. ... People take kindly to that. I think that’s just small-town banking. It’s what we do.”
What the bank also did in The Marshfield Mail’s 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards was pick up several honors, including for Best Bank, Best Loan Officer (Missy Montgomery) and Best Financial Advisor (Brian Drane).
The level of service offered at Central Bank, which changed its name from Empire Bank in 2016, is key to success, Clark said.
“At the end of the day, it boils down to relationships and service,” he said, adding if people greet you and smile, it makes you feel wanted. “That’s the only thing that differentiates us from any other bank is the level of service that we provide.”
It’s more of a challenge to connect today to people, Clark said, citing reduced branch traffic connected to the growing utilization of computers and smartphones for customers to get their banking needs fulfilled.
“People don’t necessarily need to have that interaction,” he said. “So it makes it a little bit more difficult to make those personal connections with people.”
Sometimes those personal connections are necessary to make outside the bank building, which Clark and Montgomery both said they feel is a very important element of customer service.
“We make a point to try and get out to see our customers in their place of business and understand what it is they do,” Clark said. Better understanding makes it easier for them to make financial decisions, he added.
“You have a lot of flexibility as a commercial lender because banking is relationship based,” said Montgomery, who joined the bank in 2014, and serves as vice president and loan officer. “I want to know about our customers’ business as much as they want you to be involved, so that you understand how their business runs and what their needs are.”
Although Central Bank of the Ozarks is part of a holding company network that includes 13 different affiliate banks, Clark said the vast majority of decisions on financial matters are made in Marshfield. That is another reason for the bank’s overall success, he added.
“We’re a big bank, but we have the ability to still function as a small bank,” he said. “I’d say probably 95 percent of the decisions on loans in this area are made right here in this facility. The ones that we can’t make are usually very large deals and those are made by our chief credit officer or our CEO in Springfield.”
Some of those decisions can be pretty rewarding, Montgomery said, particularly when it involves helping younger people — some of whom she might know — secure a home loan for a first house, for example.
“For me, the most satisfying part (of the job) is watching someone whose business or life change happened because you helped them accomplish something. I love that,” she said.
Clark added: “Whenever we can help somebody be successful and we see them creating jobs, that’s exciting to be a part of.”
With the bank taking such pride in its customer service, Clark said getting honored by some of those very same customers with the multiple awards in The Mail’s annual contest is a source of pride.
“We are thrilled,” he said. “I can’t say how proud I am for us to receive these.”