Banking on cloud: TowneBank primes for continued growth with SAS 

Midsize bank uses cloud-based solutions from SAS to tackle regulatory compliance, navigate risk and wow its members

Six years ago, TowneBank faced a challenge: new accounting regulations and reporting requirements. As the community bank prepared for the looming current expected credit loss (CECL) accounting standard, its staff was lean and its technology very much in progress. The Virginia-based commercial bank chose data and AI leader SAS to help it meet the compliance deadline.

Today, TowneBank has a powerful, cloud-based framework for regulatory compliance, and it’s set for success with a technology partner that can scale insights and decision making across the business – whatever the future brings in risk management, fraud and financial crimes, and their members’ needs and expectations.

A compliance journey in the cloud

Founded in 1999, TowneBank operates 51 branches in Virginia and North Carolina, with $17 billion in assets.

Erich Reuter joined the bank in 2018 and was charged with implementing a program to meet the impending CECL reporting standard. The regulation aims to guard against underestimating credit losses, thus ensuring that banks maintain adequate reserves.

“One of the biggest challenges with CECL (was that it was) a brand-new regulation,” said Reuter, TowneBank’s Executive Vice President of Quantitative Analytics and Enterprise Stress Testing. “There was not an industry standard, and there wasn’t a lot of guidance on how to implement it.”

Development of capabilities was critical. To meet CECL’s complexities with the necessary precision, TowneBank’s compliance framework needed to deliver:

  • Fast, secure access to data from multiple departments.
  • Sophisticated data systems capable of managing 15 years of historical and forecasting data and performing complex statistical modeling.
  • Verifiable data quality and integrity to ensure fair, transparent and accurate reports.

As Reuter and his team considered potential technology providers, SAS quickly rose to the top for its unparalleled industry acumen and out-of-the-box capabilities. Implementing SAS’ CECL solutions in the cloud ensured that TowneBank’s compliance platform was up and running well ahead of deadline.

“We really needed to look to the industry leaders,” he said. “We needed to look to professionals outside of the organization to help us implement the solution. And that’s where SAS came in. … SAS has provided us the opportunity to implement that standard, stay ahead of the curve and know that whatever comes ahead of us, SAS has already been there and done that.”

Future-ready, from risk and compliance to member experience and beyond 

Having mastered CECL, TowneBank is doing much more with its SAS investments. “With 15 years’ worth of data sitting in our SAS warehouse, we’ve been able to quickly answer questions throughout the organization,” said Reuter. “That’s really allowed us to take the framework that we’ve built for one purpose and use it for other purposes.”

For example, with each of 2023’s bank failures, Reuter and team were showered with rapid-fire questions from TowneBank’s executives, members and shareholders, recalled Reuter.

“It was, how are we going to get our arms around this? What’s our position relative to our peers? Historically, what does our position look like?” said Reuter.

“It was important to get that insight and communicate it to others, and our SAS solutions helped us do just that. We have a tool in the SAS platform to get those answers in hours instead of days or months.” 

TowneBank also relies on SAS to improve its member relationships. “Using SAS as a platform has enabled us to better understand our members’ needs,” said Reuter. “Now when a member comes in, we’re not just taking a single point of contact. We’re able to look at them in the context of many thousands of other members to try to anticipate their needs and approach them with potential solutions that maybe they haven’t even thought of asking about yet.”

These and other strategies have transformed TowneBank from a hometown success story to a regional heavyweight. TowneBank ranked ninth on Forbes’ America’s Best Banks List in 2022, and it consistently performs well in member surveys.

“Another great benefit is that we know that we’ll never be able to outgrow SAS,” said Reuter. “When we looked at these other vendors, we felt like if we hadn’t outgrown them already, in a very short amount of time we probably would have. With SAS, we know that we can continue to grow and leverage the solution to provide analytics and insight, and to help us tell the story no matter how big we get.”

“TowneBank is a great example of what can happen when a smart, growing financial services organization harnesses SAS’ powerful, AI-driven platform and diverse software solutions,” said Stu Bradley, Senior Vice President of Risk, Fraud and Compliance Solutions at SAS. “Preparing for CECL wasn’t a simple task for any bank. With SAS at its side, TowneBank not only did it, but the bank is now more resilient and adaptable than ever, come what may.”

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About TowneBank

Founded in 1999, TowneBank is a company built on relationships, offering a full range of banking and other financial services, with a focus on serving others and enriching lives. Dedicated to a culture of caring, Towne values all employees and members by embracing their diverse talents, perspectives, and experiences.

Now celebrating 25 years, TowneBank operates 51 banking offices throughout Hampton Roads and Central Virginia, as well as Northeastern and Central North Carolina – serving as a local leader in promoting the social, cultural, and economic growth in each community. Towne offers a competitive array of business and personal banking solutions, delivered with only the highest ethical standards. Experienced local bankers providing a higher level of expertise and personal attention with local decision-making are key to the TowneBank strategy. Towne has grown its capabilities beyond banking to provide expertise through its affiliated companies that include Towne Wealth Management, Towne Insurance Agency, Towne Benefits, TowneBank Mortgage, TowneBank Commercial Mortgage, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices RW Towne Realty, Towne 1031 Exchange, and Towne Vacations. With total assets of $16.84 billion as of Dec. 31, 2023, TowneBank is one of the largest banks headquartered in Virginia.

About SAS

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TowneBank has expanded its SAS technology framework to glean insights and support decision-making across the business.