Crawl to Run: Navigating a Digital Transformation at Horicon Bank

Firestarter: Chrissy Oelke


Chrissy Oelke

Assistant Vice President/Data Insights Manager at Horicon Bank

Our leaders understand how important data is and are committed to cultivating a data-driven culture here at Horicon. So much so that about a year and a half ago, they decided to form a new department dedicated to helping the bank drive business value by using data insights to provoke the best, smartest actions everyone can take with our customers.

I lead our new Data Insights team, which works with all areas of the bank and especially close with marketing and customer experience. But before my new team was created, I have an established history with Horicon. In fact, I spent over 15 years in marketing helping build our brand and leading growth initiatives, with the last few years shifting into other roles with data influence.

So really, I’ve been working hands-on with Horicon’s customer information—our customer intelligence—goodness I’m going to date myself, for over 20 years.


Implementing our first centralized CRM/marketing automation

We don’t just do “banking” here at Horicon—we do “relationship banking.” This is not a new concept by any means, but it’s foundational as a community bank. It means there’s not just one banker working with a customer—there’s a whole team dedicated to cultivating relationships and providing them with the right information for each part of their financial journey.

Despite that promise, before Total Expert, we didn’t have a powerful, centralized marketing/CRM platform in place. Sure, we got by and were successful, but we also knew of the untapped potential. We also recognized the need for something more to continue to deliver the high-quality, one-on-one contact our customers have been accustomed to that could scale and effectively support our rapidly growing business.

Now, with Total Expert, our bankers can access more customer information than what’s available from our core banking systems. We can be much more intentional, targeted, and personalized with our sales and marketing—we don’t have to take a shotgun approach to it. We can understand what kind of communications each customer will receive and what they actually do with those communications once received. And we can do it all in a smooth, automated way.


Taking a crawl-walk-run approach to success

I’m going to be frank. Even though we’ve been working with Total Expert for quite a while, we’re still just at the tip of the iceberg. We’re doing a complete cultural immersion for Horicon. And that’s huge (and not for the faint of heart). Realistically we knew we couldn’t just expect our bankers who’ve been doing business successfully the way they have for so long to magically switch and use this new shiny tool we put in front of them without question. It’s building confidence in the platform, encouraging them and show why this will add value to their proven successful methods – we are here to make their lives easier.  

So right now, I’d say we’re in the “crawl” phase of the “crawl-walk-run” process. And we’re crawling (starting to toddle) well. Our mortgage lenders, business bankers, and marketing team are in Total Expert, with the frontline retail bankers coming in as we speak. We’re getting users comfortable with the platform. We’re building confidence that this isn’t just another system they “have to” log into. Total Expert is good for their day-to-day role and most importantly for the success of together as a team doing good for our bank and our customers.  

For example, let’s say my business banker meets with their loan customer and through conversation uncovers a deposit product need. With Total Expert, now they can make a note of that discovery and refer them to a universal banker. The universal banker will be able to see the notes and any other information captured – full transparency org wide. We were missing the shared, communal knowledge before Total Expert. As engagement grows, we will be able to share these wins amongst our teams. 

We’ve put in place a lot of advocacy, training, and support elements that help us right now while we’re “crawling.” We are building a solid foundation. I’ll consider us in the “walk” phase once Total Expert becomes a natural part of our users’ workday, seeing and promoting the value it provides. A “run” success will include the notion that they can’t live without/do their job without Total Expert. 

As we lay our foundation, one building block is identifying our end-user champions. As admins, we can nudge and suggest and “strongly recommend” Total Expert until we’re red in the face, but it’s far more powerful if one of my bankers tells their peers “This is what I achieved with Total Expert today.” 

We’re also being very intentional with our training and communications. With the support of Horicon leadership, we regularly get facetime in front of all three of our business lines with use cases specific to their areas. We have extensive resources available via an internal SharePoint page. End-users can find internal FAQs, trainings, tips and tricks much of which is specific to their business line. 


Helping bankers get rid of their fear of automation

Total Expert has quickly become a key part of Horicon’s sales and marketing technology foundation, one that helps us humanize the digital experience for both our bankers and our customers. And it’s great timing, too, because we’re growing fast. We brought on four new branches in the last year alone, so it’s a great time to show our bankers what Total Expert can do, how it can (and will) be a foundational piece for growth. 

In particular, Total Expert’s automation is helping us evolve our culture in positive ways. I mean, let’s face it, automation can be scary to bankers who like to control their information and the messages sent to their customers. There’s apprehension and slew of “but what if” scenarios. Culturally we need to change that to “and why not.” Trust the tools and logic built and take the leap to capitalize on opportunities in timely and efficient means.  

As platform engagement grows end-users start to see the 360-degree view of data Total Expert gives them, they will quickly realize how transparency can help everyone at Horicon be more successful. Having the right tools and information at our banker’s fingertips will make their interactions that much more impactful. We aren’t taking away their ability to personally call their clients, automation doesn’t replace anything—it’s a way to enhance the experience for their customer. And they’re starting to see these benefits of automation, that’s a huge win in my book! 


Benefitting from a true partnership

The world is changing, and things are constantly moving. We see the vision Total Expert has, we know they’re agile, and we know more great things are coming on the horizon. 

Most important, what we have with Total Expert is a true partnership. After a long implementation process, we seamlessly transitioned and continue to work closely with the team at Total Expert. There’s high levels of respect and trust, which allows both teams to be candid with each other. Sometimes challenging and thought-provoking conversations are what ultimately build success for both our organizations.  

There is a transcending feel from Total Expert leadership —vision, transparency, and support. They aren’t stagnant in an ever-evolving industry. In fact, I’ve heard direct from Total Expert leaders who readily admitted that maybe they missed the mark with a specific product or feature. Or they explained why they pivoted from what was originally planned to stay relevant with market changes. Well, you know what? I haven’t seen other fintech leaders be that transparent. I appreciate and respect the openness of Total Expert. 

And can we be sure to acknowledge all the people at Total Expert? You can’t build a true partnership without the people, so simple right. I can’t say enough good things about the “TEam”—really don’t get me started, it’s hard for me to stop sharing how lucky we are. It’s the best feeling when getting the work done, building success together, and just having so much fun doing so. Lucky to not only have partners, but also those I can truly call friends.


What’s next?

We are just getting started on our Total Expert journey. Knowing what lies ahead and the untapped potential is exhilarating.  

There’s so much more we plan to do with the platform, like serving our internal customer experience. Putting our teams on Total Expert-powered training Journeys that guide our bankers. Targeted business line training how to best utilize the system. Maybe automate weekly tips on how to enhance external customer experience. Let’s have our leadership send out insightful communications. The opportunities are, dare I say, limitless. These simple practices will serve a greater cultural impact with tangible statistics to act on.   

I’m also excited to capture even more information about our customers in Total Expert. It’s no secret the mountains of data in the banking and financial services space. We will continue to enhance customer profiles with relevant information and behaviors. Harnessing the power of the data to demonstrate we are their partner of choice on their financial journey. 

Hang on folks, it’s going to be an awesome ride!