Customer friendly, fiber powered

By Noble Sprayberry

Modern banks often nudge customers toward ATMs and online tools, reducing the workload in branch offices. However, expect a more personal experience from United Cumberland Bank in Oneida.

“The trend across the nation is that traffic in branches is decreasing,” says Jim Johnson, bank president. “But in our communities, the branches get heavy visitation.”

And while a face-to-face visit is welcome, all United Cumberland branches also offer the online resources considered essential to today’s consumers. “There’s so much business customers can do now without stepping into a bank,” Johnson says. “And we want to make it easier and more convenient for them, too.”

From technology to customer service, the goal is to provide both the human touch and technology customers expect from the local bank. And while the bank may seem like a newcomer, it’s built on a long tradition.

The bank was formed in 2014 by a merger between Bank of McCreary County and First Trust and Savings Bank. The move solidified a 20-year affiliation between the two institutions, which combined have more than 200 years of experience serving the region. The McCreary County bank formed in 1906, and the Tennessee bank was created in 1923.

“We feel that if our community does well, the bank will do well,” Johnson says. “And we continue to bank based on relationships. These are the friends and family we deal with every day.”

New bank, new technology

The merged bank maintains six branches — three in Tennessee and three in Kentucky. Fast, reliable fiber-based broadband by Highland created a valuable new resource.

Just more than a year ago, the bank moved to a business-level, all-fiber Internet system that connected each branch’s computers. During the workday, more than 200 computers or devices may hit the network at once.
And with the fiber optic system, transactions flow smoothly. “Since we’ve had fiber in place, speeds have increased tremendously,” says Ryan Duncan, network administrator. “Our banks are able to communicate faster between one another.”

For customers, the new system means more efficient interactions at the bank, particularly when someone visits a branch. “It allows us to get on our systems quicker,” Johnson says. “I’m sure the tellers and the lenders, who go back and forth between the different systems we use, find it much faster.”

Upgrades did not stop with the computer network. The bank depends on a new telephone system provided by Highland that runs on fiber. Known as VoIP (Voice Over IP), the system provides flexibility, Duncan says. “It gives you more options. Now, if someone calls and you don’t get an answer, the call falls over to the next person in the group,” he says. “It really allows you to expand the phone system, and it gives you full control over your own system.”

The result is a technology infrastructure that allows the bank to better serve the community. “For us, fiber has been fantastic,” Duncan says.