The Silicon Review
"Avidia Bank was the first Community Bank to join The Clearing House Real-Time Payments System"
With online banking services, companies and individuals alike can save both time and resources while also keeping track of their expenses in a convenient and cost-efficient way. Gone are the days when a company representative or an individual had to go to the bank in-person to deposit a check or withdraw cash, as all of these operations can now be done almost exclusively online. In other words, technology has moved to center stage in financial services, making big moves.
Avidia Bank operates as a full-service bank. The bank offers personal and commercial banking, private banking, and investment services, in addition to debit and credit cards, loans, and other related services. Avidia Bank operates in the United States.
The bank was established in 1869 and is headquartered in Hudson, Massachusetts. It has additional branches located across several cities such as Hudson, Westborough, Clinton, Marlborough, Northborough, Shrewsbury, Leominster, and Framingham.
Mark O’Connell: Interview Highlights
Why was the company set up? And how did you expand your company and its offerings over the years?
Avidia Bank began as a community bank serving the area of MetroWest Massachusetts. Since its founding, the bank has grown to 10 locations and offers both business and consumer banking services and has assets in excess of $1.6 billion, currently. Avidia has sought out unique opportunities in its markets including offering Health Savings Accounts, cutting edge mobile features and a FinTech (Financial Technology) focus to help FinTech companies accelerate their growth.
In 2019, we dedicated resources to meeting the financial and business needs of Financial Technology (FinTech) companies. Among the services we provided are Real-Time Payments (RTP). Avidia was the first community bank in the country to sign on to this service available through The Clearing House (TCH), and currently offers faster payments through a push-to-card system that allows customers to pay people and small businesses using their cards. Additionally, in the FinTech space, Avidia Bank received the 2016 NEACH Innovation award for “AvidiaPay” and the Bank received the 2019 FIS Global Payment Innovation award for “Instant Merchant Settlement”
How successful was your first project roll on? Share the experience.
We have launched many projects over the years and they have all had their challenges but it has helped us grow as an organization. Avidia Bank, though a smaller community bank, has always been looking for innovative ways to modernize banking for our customers and make it easier for them. We’ve been an early adopter of things like Cardless Cash access to ATMs, HSA accounts, P2P Payments, Real-Time Payments, and more. All of which has helped us not only provide the best in technology for our customers but has also opened the door to new opportunities and unique partnerships.
What kind of responses have you received from your consumers over the years? How have they motivated you to shape your offerings/grow the company?
It is always a mixed reaction. Some people think banking doesn’t need to be progressive but when they start using new things like mobile banking apps or touch IDs; they realize that it’s convenient. We have realized that we need to educate our customers and partners on the importance and how to use these features.
What challenges did you face in your initial years?
Being an early adopter comes with its own challenges. You need to dedicate time and resources to testing, creating educational pieces and know that things won’t always be perfect. With that, it’s important to listen to and share feedback when you’re launching new products, services, features, or technology.
“Earning trust and respect of consumers all around the world is through consistent focus on delivering high quality in all of our actions.” How do you interpret this statement?
One of our greatest assets continues to be our charter as a mutual bank. Without shareholders and the pressure to deliver quarterly returns, we were free to continue to give back to our customers and communities – reinvesting our profits to offer lower fees and competitive rates and investing in our employees and our communities. We also continued to invest in ways to enhance the service we provide, including the reconstruction of our branch offices to make banking in person even more convenient and easy for our customers.
Being a community bank, we are committed to earning the trust of our customers and community. Beyond our product offerings, it is important for us to work hard to earn our community’s trust and showcase that we are a true community partner through things like the Avidia Charitable Foundation, sponsoring events, volunteering, and support local businesses.
Fostering a culture of feedback is crucial to the success of every organization. How is this true with your company?
Feedback is critical for us to have a successful launch. Internally, we share our feedback on new processes, testing of new features and products. Steering committees often oversee this and bring in stakeholders to help share feedback. When we work with an outside partner, we often have status update calls on a regular basis to discuss feedback. Once something new is launched, that feedback loop is continued to help improve the processes, make it easier, and re-evaluate.
Customer service varies, but companies can still be successful. How do you maintain your customers’ trust and loyalty?
Customer service is absolutely necessary for us to be successful. We not only make ourselves available in our branches for our customers but also through our contact center, online, social media, and email. Being on channels that they prefer is important. Additionally, the responsiveness is very important.
We strive not to be the most profitable bank, but to be the trusted bank on which our customers can turn for honest and personal guidance. Key to that promise are our people. Employees at our levels of our organization are committed to serving others.
Mark R. O’Connell: The Incredible Banker
Mark R. O’Connell is the President and CEO of Avidia Bank. Mark has been with the bank since 1988, having been the Controller, Vice President and Treasurer, and Senior Vice President, and Chief Financial Officer. He was appointed President and CEO in 2004.
Mark has always been an active community banker, having been a past Chairman and Director of the United Way of Tri-County, and a past Chairman and Director of the Boys and Girls Clubs of MetroWest. He currently serves as a board member for the Massachusetts Bankers Association, Depositors Insurance Fund, Savings Bank Employee Retirement Association, and Northeast Retirement Services.
Mark earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from Salem State College, an MBA from the University of Lowell, and is a Certified Public Accountant. He lives with his family in Hudson, MA.
“Beyond our product offerings, it is important for us to work hard to earn our community’s trust and showcase that we are a true community partner through things like the Avidia Charitable Foundation, sponsoring events, volunteering, and support local businesses.”