Mortgage exec gives struggling bank a digital makeover

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Movement Bank in Danville, Va., finally seems to be moving in the right direction.

Casey Crawford, CEO of Movement Mortgage in Indian Land, S.C., bought a majority stake in the former First State Bank in June 2017. He also invested $10 million to recapitalize the $44 million-asset bank, helping rescue what had previously been a minority-owned institution.

The nearly century-old bank was operating under a consent order. Its balance sheet was hamstrung by problem loans.

Crawford, a former professional football player, hired a new CEO, head of risk and chief financial officer to help turn the bank around. His new team has been working quietly over the last 15 months to improve credit processes, implement new technology systems and clean up the balance sheet.

The bank now has updated technology, which will allow it to expand beyond its hometown. It is focusing on Charlotte and Greensboro in North Carolina, along with Virginia Beach, as key growth markets after opening loan production offices and hiring lenders in each city. Movement Bank also recruited a team of mortgage originators from Movement Mortgage.

Crawford said he expects the bank to reach $100 million in assets in the next year. In a recent interview, he also discussed Movement Bank’s progress and plans to build a "largely digital" bank.

Here is an edited transcript of the interview.

What are your top priorities for the next 12 months?
CASEY CRAWFORD: We are getting this great technology launched. What we really want to start doing is serve customers and tell stories. Right now, we need to grow deposits, so we're going to look for small businesses and consumers we can serve in Charlotte, Greensboro, Danville and Virginia Beach. Our commercial bankers are actively working on relationships right now. The gun just went off and the race is starting now that we have a technology platform that is up and ready to serve all of these clients.

Do you plan to operate without many branches?
We don’t plan on being infrastructure heavy. We're going to be a largely digital bank. We just completed our online account-opening platform so we can open accounts remotely online. That just got implemented, so we're going to start adding accounts. We set up an account- opening drive here in South Carolina in the spring and I think we opened 400 accounts in one month, which was more accounts than the bank had opened in the previous 10 years.

How did you get so many people to sign up so quickly?
I think it was a lot of enthusiasm around a new option for banking. In Charlotte, most of the local deposits are held by Bank of America and Wells Fargo. They are good, but not that good. People look around and see the Movement Foundation and Movement Schools, and they know that Movement Bank is an institution that is deeply invested in the community where they live, so we have had a lot of business owners and people reaching out and saying, “Hey, how can I do business with this bank?” So up until this month we haven’t been able to take them on as clients if they couldn't drive to Danville. Now we're going to be able to serve them with online account openings.

How will you build awareness without branches?
A lot of people are familiar with the Movement Mortgage brand and we certainly plan to leverage that. What we have always had a culture of doing is serving people really well and then telling stories using social media. Social media really forces you to serve people well and then get them to recommend you to their friends and family. That’s a deep expertise that we have from Movement Mortgage. We started as a four-person organization; we have 4,000 employees now. We are really excited to leverage that same philosophy. We don’t have a large paid-media strategy. What we want to do is lead with thoughtful financial products that impact people’s lives and then build enthusiasm in the community for the bank and encourage our customers and clients to retell that story via social media.

How do you comply with the Community Reinvestment Act when you lack branches in these communities?
I can’t quote you the plan off the top of my head, but we are subject to the same CRA requirements that every bank has and we are working with regulators to make sure we fully comply. Our vision is that we would serve the entire community and we think there's a lot of opportunity with the underbanked. A lot of that stems from a deep distrust in the larger banking institutions. We think there are some neat opportunities for us to reach into some previously underbanked communities and serve them in a new way because we're local and because we're a community bank. We are not a big national brand, so we're able to build some relationships, which I think is more difficult for big national banks to do in local markets. I am enthusiastic about some of the opportunities within that space.

Could you tell me more about the new technology?
We landed on Q2 for our core banking system. They were implementing some really thoughtful mobile-banking technology that we're really excited about. The big opportunity for community banks is to leverage new technology. There are technology providers out there that really give you the ability to serve your consumers at least as well, if not in a superior fashion, as the biggest banks and you're not saddled with all of the legacy infrastructure.

Would you consider buying another bank?
I think we would always look at those opportunities. I think we would look opportunistically at institutions that have cultural alignment with who we are and how we want to invest in these communities.

Are you building Movement Bank for the long term?
This is something we want to be in for decades. This isn’t a flip. This is something we want to build for the long haul. With technology you can build banks that can operate efficiently and serve customers as well or better than big institutions. You just have to have the vision and leadership to go out and execute on that. We are really excited about the next 20 years and what we can do with this bank and the amount of market share we could take.

Why did you decide to buy and fix a troubled bank rather than going the de novo route?
We looked at it for a long time. The de novo process actually seemed like a more difficult one. We were made aware of First State Bank and it was very troubled, so we had the opportunity to come in and recapitalize it and transform it without a really long, cumbersome application process that is required of de novo institutions.

We loved the legacy and story of First State. They set out 100 years earlier to bank those being discriminated against by the banking system. When we heard the story, we knew that was something we wanted help carry on, and then we realized our capital infusion would mean so much to that bank. It would mean being able to stay in business or not. It just became a really easy choice for us.

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