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Empowering Community Banks: How PULSE® Supports Their Vital Role in Local Communities

PULSE Executive Vice President of Marketing and Brand Management Steve Sievert smiles in front of a gray background.

Community banks and credit unions perform a unique role among financial services providers and are an integral part of the communities they serve. They are not only places where people bank, they are also community supporters, sponsors, and champions. 

But recently, community banks have come under pressure, feeling the effects of economic uncertainty, higher interest rates, and rapidly advancing technology. These local institutions are working harder than ever to respond to new customer preferences and to continue making important community contributions.

PULSE understands these challenges. Over forty years ago, PULSE was founded primarily by community banks, and they continue to be at the heart of what the company does. With an exclusive focus on debit, PULSE has developed ways to help community banks navigate the challenges they face.

“Community banks must strike a balance between delivering a technology-enabled solution and delivering in those moments when customers need a connection with a human.”

Steve Sievert, PULSE Executive Vice President of Marketing and Brand Management

That is one of the reasons PULSE and parent company Discover Financial Services developed the Discover® Debit program. It is built to meet the needs of community banks and credit unions. It is also why PULSE has teamed with Bankers Helping Bankers (BHB) to provide the bankers-only platform with the debit expertise its members want.

Indeed, to succeed in today’s challenging environment, PULSE Executive Vice President of Marketing and Brand Management, Steve Sievert, believes that community financial institutions must focus on delivering client-centric experiences as never before.

Recently, Sievert joined Dave Mayo and Tanner Mayo, founders of the fintech banking site FedFis, on their podcast to discuss why this approach matters and how community banks can implement it.

“Community banks must strike a balance between delivering a technology-enabled solution and delivering in those moments when customers need a connection with a human,” Sievert said.  

Lean into what consumers want

Community institutions have always been central to the financial health of local businesses and customers. Being embedded in the community, these institutions work closely with local groups, sponsor events, and get to know their customers. In this way, they can help fund important projects and respond to community concerns that are important to customers. This is also a way they can differentiate themselves from the larger, national institutions they compete with.

In addition to taking an active role in their communities, local institutions can align their products with industry trends that are gaining a local foothold. They know their customers intimately and can respond with programs and services that cater to these changing consumer preferences. Often that means embracing new technologies to make banking and payments easier.

For community banks, debit is a primary way to meet these changing customer preferences. “People want easier ways to pay, and research shows they are willing to change payment methods if they find something that is more convenient,” observed Jeff Fowler, Senior Manager, Marketing Programs & Sales Enablement at PULSE. “Debit issuers are well positioned to take advantage of this trend.”

Research shows that debit is the preferred method of payment for more and more consumers. “That is only going to accelerate moving forward, particularly as consumers are using a debit card and setting it at the top of a digital wallet,” Sievert said. 

Consider the benefits a network or brand change can bring

With the growing role of debit in the depositor relationship, PULSE focuses on helping community banks capture a range of benefits, including improving profitability and driving future growth. With PULSE, community banks can take advantage of:

  • Greater non-interest income: Colony Bank made a brand switch to Discover Debit to upgrade its debit program amid a customer base expansion. The bank was able to streamline its debit statement reconciliation. PULSE provided responsive and engaging client services, as well as marketing support, for the transition. But most important, Discover Debit’s highly competitive interchange and low fees helped the bank increase the profitability of its debit program by 30%.
  • Fraud protection: With more transactions moving online, fraud has become a bigger concern than ever, and PULSE provides issuers with several ways to protect their customers. Benefits like access to DebitProtect® fraud-detection and risk-mitigation services and credit and dark web monitoring backed by Experian® mean cardholders can feel more secure with their new debit card. (To learn about all the ways that PULSE protects debit cardholders from fraud on the dark web, see Fighting Debit Fraud and the Dark Web: Seven Best Practices.)
  • Marketing support: PULSE provides guidance to community banks looking to fine-tune their customer-engagement strategies and develop innovative programs to position debit top of wallet. Through the company’s Marketing Hub, which has more than 5,000 customizable marketing templates, PULSE helps issuers deliver their message to the right customers at the right time. Marketing programs include Debit & Win It, a sweepstakes in which customers are entered for each debit transaction during a specific period, and Purchase With a Purpose, which generates a charitable donation each time a debit card is used.

For more information about how PULSE can help your institution promote debit to your customers, contact your Account Executive or a PULSE debit expert.