Colony Bank faced a challenge. After a series of mergers in 2019 and 2021, the now-largest community bank in Georgia needed to meet the demands of its growing customer base. In particular, the bank recognized that its debit card program – one of the key relationships it maintains with its customers – needed an upgrade.
With $2.7 billion in assets, Colony responded with several new products and services to deliver more value to its customers. Among them was the launch of a new debit card program with Discover Debit, a solution endorsed by the American Bankers Association and 11 state banking associations.
Colony Senior Vice President Jim Jowers explained that the selection of the Discover Debit program occurred in an unexpected way. In 2017, while negotiating with the bank’s electronic funds transfer (EFT) service provider, he fell into conversation with PULSE®, a Discover company, about switching the bank’s card brand to Discover.
As part of its decision-making process, Colony first compared the three major card brands and found that working with Discover would provide the most value in terms of program profitability and benefits to customers. But because the switch to Discover seemed like a risk, Colony also presented a series of questions. Would the debit program fit into the bank’s strategy? Would it be compatible with its existing technology? Was it financially beneficial to make the change?
“We presented every challenge we could,” Jowers said. “Discover met every one.”
Colony Bank wanted a responsive strategic partner for its debit program
Colony concentrated on several specific areas. The bank wanted to ensure that the solution met specific criteria to help achieve its goals, including the opportunity to increase its non-interest income. And a key priority was finding a customer-focused strategic partner that understood the needs of a community bank and would help Colony deliver on its brand promise. Among its other requirements were:
- A simple and more transparent billing and reconciliation process
- Responsive and engaged client services
- Marketing support to increase community outreach and customer activation
In each case, Colony Bank found that Discover could deliver.
“Discover is so much easier. It’s very clear. Very consolidated. Very transparent. You don’t need a doctorate to understand it, and I don’t feel like there are hidden costs.”
Jim Jowers, Colony Senior Vice President
Colony sees increased profitability and streamlined processes after move
The move to Discover Debit proved to be a smart one for Colony Bank, as the debit card program saw a 30% increase in profitability.
Colony also found that moving to Discover Debit streamlined its debit statement reconciliation process – typically a complicated and time-consuming process, especially for community banks. Discover Debit’s simpler, all-in-one, single-fee approach saves Colony a considerable amount of time each month. Colony now spends roughly 10 minutes a month on its debit program invoice.
“Discover is so much easier,” Jowers said. “It’s very clear. Very consolidated. Very transparent. You don’t need a doctorate to understand it, and I don’t feel like there are hidden costs.”
The partnership between Colony Bank and Discover flows in both directions
To help ensure Colony Bank’s smooth transition and the success of its new debit program, Discover provided a dedicated account manager and marketing support with a team that understands the specific needs of community banks.
Prior to the program rollout, the team at Discover focused on Colony’s key concerns, including achieving maximum merchant acceptance and identifying any merchant gaps. The team reviewed several months of Colony’s transactions and analyzed the data against their own database. A client support team then worked with both Colony and community merchants to expand acceptance.
“Our partnership and support differentiate our product,” said Varapon Zielinski, Manager, Issuer Marketing for Discover Debit. “Whether an issuer is launching a marketing campaign or implementing new technology, we have dedicated teams that are responsive, hands-on and invested in their success.”
When it comes to marketing and branding, Discover Debit also gives issuers the flexibility to showcase their own brand. Colony was able to own the entire front-of-card real estate, giving the bank another opportunity to deepen its relationship and brand recognition with cardholders.
Discover understands that banks and credit unions that issue Discover Debit are integral to their communities. With localized marketing strategies, Colony has been able to showcase its commitment to the community and the cardholders it serves.
“I won’t candy-coat it at all. It was not easy,” Jowers said. But the Discover team has been “awesome to work with. It’s definitely been worth it on our side.”
To learn more about Colony Bank, and how Discover and the ABA brought new opportunities to its debit card program, read the full Case Study here.