Creating Connections at Forum: Insights from First Federal Savings Bank

On paper, the reasons to attend Forum are as clear as the conference's chock-full agenda of intriguing speakers, insightful sessions and hands-on access to fintech innovations. But what doesn't show up on the agenda – face-to-face discussions, small group meetings and sidebar conversations – has proven to be just as valuable for First Federal Savings Bank. The Rochester, IN, bank takes full advantage of Forum's networking opportunities to create and continue important connections with peers and the Fiserv team.

First Federal first attended Forum in 2012 to learn more about Fiserv as they considered a switch to a new account processing platform. They haven't missed since.

Creating Connections at Forum: Insights from First Federal Savings Bank

"We were looking for a community of like-minded banks that were finding success doing the right things – a peer community surrounded by an engaged and available Fiserv team," said Evan Gottschalk, the bank's president and COO. "At Forum, we discovered a real team atmosphere made up of people we could work with and learn from."

The bank's leadership team continues to use Forum to grow key relationships – a solid network "fortified, strengthened and born through the Forum experience," according to Gottschalk.

Sessions, Solutions and Strategies

The First Federal team said it remains impressed by the scope and energy of Forum, as well as its positive and forward-leaning tone. In particular, the Solution Center's one-stop access to products and services has helped the bank think strategically about new implementations and processes.

"In the Solutions Center, you can see how all the products and services fit together and talk through any questions you might have with Fiserv product experts," said Jodi Wynn, vice president for First Federal. "That background gave us the confidence to implement quite a number of solutions at conversion."

First Federal's leadership team uses the Forum app to prioritize where each person will go in the Solutions Center and what sessions they'll attend – a divide-and-conquer strategy that enables them to get the most out of Forum. However, the Cleartouch® Solution Session is a must-attend for every First Federal attendee.

"Being able to hear about updates and enhancements to our platform – and what's next – is so important," said Amanda Morris-Feldman, EVP and CFO for First Federal. "And we appreciate that in Forum sessions, it's not just Fiserv people who go to the front of the room; peer banks often share how they're using technology to meet challenges in their own organizations."

Morris-Feldman suggests financial institutions send staff from each department to the conference to broaden the team's focus and breadth of knowledge – and increase the potential impact of Forum. In addition to new product implementations, the bank has used their Forum experience to make internal changes in processes and assignments.

Building Relationships at Forum

The team appreciates the opportunity the Forum agenda creates to build relationships with peer banks and Fiserv leadership.

"We've got this great network that's been built up through shared time at Forum, which helps us consider new strategic opportunities with confidence," said Gottschalk. "We never hesitate to pick up the phone to see how another bank is addressing an issue."

Gottschalk, Wynn and Morris-Feldman have attended Forum together since the beginning. As a new leadership team, Forum helped them grow into their roles and to come together around key strategic ideas for the bank. The uninterrupted time away from the office is an opportunity to talk through where the team wants to go as an organization.

The team agrees it's been easy to justify their continued attendance at Forum.

"You can't look at Forum as a dollars-and-cents proposition, because you can't underestimate the value you get from expanding your knowledge base and your bank family," said Gottschalk. "Because of our Forum experience, we've built something more than a network of contacts. We're now part of a family of banks that are all on the same side."

Registration is now open for Fiserv Forum 2017 in Las Vegas. Learn more and register today.

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