Ledale Reynolds – The Citizens Bank of Philadelphia (Mississippi)
- Written by: Jason Pafundi
- Produced by: Zachary Brann & Kirk Dyson
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Ledale Reynolds has heard all the jokes and still must tell people he doesn’t work for one of the largest banks in the City of Brotherly Love. But he expected there would be some confusion when he took technology job for The Citizens Bank of Philadelphia, which is based in Mississippi.
“We’ve been serving the people of Philadelphia and Mississippi for more than 100 years,” says Reynolds, the bank’s senior vice president and chief information officer and an employee of the bank since 2008. “Having the same name as such a large institution keeps things interesting.”
Also keeping things interesting? The myriad upgrades and improvements to processes, technology and the overall banking experience Reynolds is spearheading for customers across The Citizens Bank of Philadelphia network, which includes small towns in Mississippi and bigger cities like Biloxi, Gulfport, Jackson, Oxford and Starkville.
“By providing better technology, we can provide better processes for both our employees and our customers,” Reynolds says. “That makes us a better bank.”
Upgrading the banking experience
The Citizens Bank of Philadelphia, which has 27 branches and more than a billion in assets, has been serving customers in Mississippi since 1908. Reynolds and his team are constantly working on improving and automating manual processes that were introduced years—even decades—earlier.
A few years ago, Reynolds realized customer service representatives would complete paper forms for customers, then fax or scan and email the signed instructions to the wire department, where additional steps were completed to perform the wire transfer and update the customer’s account.
The process would take between 15 and 30 minutes per wire transaction. Now, the wire instructions are sent through a system developed in-house that automatically collects the customer’s data and signature. Then, the funds are automatically deposited in the customer’s account. The new process takes five to 10 minutes per wire, a third of the time.
“Our teams like the changes because it’s tightened up the process and resulted in detailed wire logs and information,” Reynolds says.
The next big project is an upgrade to the teller line. Once completed in June 2022, it will allow tellers to scan and enter checks into the bank’s system when they are presented by a customer. Before, all teller transactions would be scanned and balanced at the end of the day.
With the new system, errors in the deposit can be caught before the customer leaves, Reynolds says. He estimates this will reduce the amount of work by the tellers and back office by 10 to 20 percent. He also plans to update the bank’s mobile app, which is used for up to 80 percent of logins.
“Our current app is great,” he says. “We want to keep it that way.”
Protecting data—and money
Since Reynolds joined the bank nearly 15 years ago, the institution has made significant investments in its cybersecurity infrastructure. Those include regular risk assessments, document review, vendor management and disaster preparedness—all important layers to protecting the bank’s $1.3 billion in assets.
“When you’re playing defense with cybersecurity, you’ve got be right 100 percent of the time,” he says. “A hacker has to be right just once.”
More than just technology, the defense plan includes regular training with employees, especially related to phishing schemes and ransomware. Under a new plan, the bank will update its internal authentication processes and improve its layered defenses to respond to new threats.
“We’re always teaching employees not to open things they’re not expecting and not to click links in emails from unknown sources,” Reynolds says. “There’s a lot of education as part of our cybersecurity strategy.”
Passion for tech and finance
Cybersecurity wasn’t a concept until the late 1980s, but Reynolds developed an affinity for computers and technology before then. His father was an electronic data processing manager at an old U.S. Motors plant in Philadelphia, so he was around computers at a young age. Reynolds got his first computer when he was 12—before the first IBM PC was released—and he was quickly enamored with the device, using it program in BASIC and play games.
He first studied electrical engineering in college but switched paths to earn his undergraduate degree in accounting and a master’s degree in information systems from Mississippi State University. After college, Reynolds spent nearly 14 years working for the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians. He worked on gaming audits before moving into information technology where he held information systems specialist and network manager roles.
“Basically, I ensured the Tribal Government Network was monitored and maintained and in working order for the Mississippi Choctaws,” Reynolds says.
The Citizens Bank of Philadelphia needed a CIO and Reynolds jumped at the opportunity.
“When I accepted the CIO role at the bank, a friend asked me if I was sure I wanted to join such a regulated industry. I don’t regret making the change and look forward to continuing to meet our customers’ financial needs,” he says.
View this feature in the Spring I 2022 Edition here.
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