Culture and Talent

Jill Castilla: Social media is an opportunity to humanize big banks

  • Social media emerged right as Jill Castilla was asked to lead a bank turnaround, and she's harnessed it for customer engagement.
  • Banks should use social media to humanize their organizations, not as a problem management tool, she says.
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Jill Castilla: Social media is an opportunity to humanize big banks

For a one-branch bank with just $250 million in assets, Citizens Bank of Edmond is one of the most innovative and forward-leaning banks of its size — and way ahead of its community banking peers. It replaced many former branches with video teller machines, and its mobile payment and deposit products are on a par with the biggest banks.

The Edmond, Oklahoma, bank, was on the brink of failure in 2009 when Jill Castilla became its new CEO and transformed it into a leader in innovation — getting it the type of praise usually reserved for the largest banks with bigger budgets and bigger scale. Castilla put social media to work to help Citizens engage with customers, attract talent and rebuild its image.

Castilla, continuously recognized as one of the most powerful and innovative bank CEOs, is also one of the most active on social media, particularly on Twitter. She has more than 12,000 followers there and her feed is filled with tweets about goings on at the bank and in the local area, posts selfies and engages with customers. She talked with Tearsheet about how social media has helped Citizens’ brand, business and community.

There aren’t a lot of bank CEOs so involved in Twitter. What got the ball rolling for you?
I came to lead a bank turnaround. We didn’t have a marketing department; we had very little money. Social media came around the right time and seemed like an accessible way we could get feedback. It was kind of just me doing it from the beginning. It was really time efficient and inexpensive.

Compare your involvement to the larger banks. How come Jamie Dimon isn’t tweeting? 
I don’t know why he doesn’t — it would be the best reputation repair management. He tells some great stories in print media. Big banks tend to use social more as problem management and financial literacy tools. But it really should be a tool to make people feel connected to the people that are running these big banks rather than just being someone that can respond to a question. Big banks are missing out on being able to humanize those institutions that can often be villainized.

Do you have a social media team today?  
We have one staff member that’s part of marketing and has social media expertise. But through social media we’ve gained a reputation in the technology sector for financial services. We could acquire some technology firm to expand our outreach. But there aren’t any immediate plans.

What role has social media played in your understanding of fintech today?
There isn’t a better tool to orient you with what’s happening in fintech. I draw so much inspiration from being able to follow incredible minds in fintech unhampered by legacy technology. Twitter especially can be such a wonderful tool for bankers wanting to access the creativity, the disruption that’s happening throughout the entire world.

What have you learned from being on Twitter?
I initially thought there would be pressure to develop content and started to realize social media platforms are more about a conversation. And you develop professional relationships that could impact the bottom line of the bank.

Can you give an example?
We host a community event every month March through October, Heard on Hurd, and we only use social media to promote it. So I’ve had non-customers email our bank’s generic email address about wanting to be part of our bank just because of what they’re seeing on social media. Often they’re businesses I’ve had no introduction to other than through social media.

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