DV: Will you tell us a bit about Tri Counties Bank?
MC: Tri Counties was established in 1975. We now operate 32 traditional branches in California and 22 grocery store branches through partnerships with Raley’s, Albertson’s and Wal-Mart Supercenters. We have six branches in Chico, where we have approximately 30 percent of the market share. Readers of the Chico News and Review honored us by naming Tri Counties their favorite bank for 2006, and members of our management team recently rang the opening bell at NASDAQ, making us the first California company headquartered north of Sacramento to do so. Tri Counties has been publicly traded on the NASDAQ since 1993 and is approaching $2 billion in assets.
DV: Why did Tri Counties Bank agree to become a Validify partner during alpha testing?
MC: The primary reason was the strong relationship we’ve had with Harland. Harland has been a partner to Tri Counties Bank for a number of years. We started out using Harland checks, and today we use Harland’s Stratics analytics, direct marketing, and HarlandImpact. Also, identity theft is very much on everyone’s minds, and we want to help protect our customers. Many of the programs I’ve looked at offer help after the theft has already taken place. So, when Validify was presented to me as something that could help prevent identity theft, I saw it as a service we could test to benefit both our customers and the bank.
DV: What are some of those benefits?
MC: Through Validify, we’re offering our customers this service or protection, if you will. It’s something that can help them feel more comfortable about their financial relationship with us and sleep a little better at night knowing they have security features that they can’t get at any other bank in Chico. Besides doing its job and being able to identify fraudulent signatures, the Validify barcode stands out on the check and acts as a deterrent—like an alarm system sign in front of your home. With Validify, I feel we are at least taking proactive measures to prevent fraudulent checks from getting through the process.
DV: What would you tell other financial institutions that are considering integrating Validify?
MC: My approach with anything we market is to get it to our employees first. That way, they can use it, see the benefit of it and be able to explain it—really help their customers understand and get to know the product. Tri Counties Bank is the fifth largest employer in Butte County, with approximately half of our 700+ employees living and working in the Chico area. For the alpha implementation, participating employees received a box of Validify checks. Several who ran out of checks wanted to reorder them with Validify, commenting, “I really like having that on my check.” We’ve been talking to our customers about it, they’ll start using it, and it will begin to be seen in the marketplace. I expect that the enthusiasm will have a snowball effect from there. I think this is a challenging time for all financial institutions. Having a service like Validify that makes our customers feel more comfortable and secure is certainly going to provide an advantage for us in the marketplace. Eventually, it will be nice when all banks use Validify so that signature fraud can be stopped.
DV: How did Tri Counties Bank communicate about Validify to employees and customers?
MC: We sent e-mails to the branches to alert them it was coming and held contests to make it an exciting process for both branch staff and customers. Of course, we also used the posters and banners Harland provided. We probably have one of the best graphic designers around in our marketing department, and he was extremely impressed. To me, that’s excellent validation of the work Harland did.
DV: Do you expect the program to be extended to small business customers as well?
MC: That is my intention. I have the Validify checks, and there hasn’t been a store I’ve used them in where merchants haven’t asked about them, commented on how great they were, or asked how they could get them.
To learn more about Validify, call 1-800-723-2580, Ext. 5143 or visit www.harland.com/validify.