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Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Citizens Bank of Edmond’s Commitment to Small Businesses Fuels Community Prosperity

Citizens Bank Of Edmond Fosters Community Prosperity
Andrew Allen

Written by: Andrew Allen

Andrew Allen
Andrew Allen

For nearly 20 years, Andrew has worked for financial institutions ranging from regional investment organizations to some of the largest banks in the world. At Wells Fargo, Andrew was a Consultant within the Insight and Innovation division. A graduate of the University of Georgia’s Terry College of Business, Andrew’s goal has been promoting personal financial wellness and solid money decisions. As a Staff Writer for CardRates, Andrew seeks to inform readers of solutions to help them on their path to financial freedom.

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Edited by: Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro
Lillian Guevara-Castro

Lillian Guevara-Castro brings more than 30 years of editing and journalism experience to the CardRates team. She has written and edited for major news organizations, including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the New York Times, and she previously served as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Florida. Today, Lillian edits all CardRates content for clarity, accuracy, and reader engagement.

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In a Nutshell: Citizens Bank of Edmond has served its customers and enhanced its community for more than 120 years. The bank works with small businesses to help them overcome challenges and grow. It plans to offer in-person and online financial education programs in 2024 to improve community members’ financial well-being. Citizens Bank of Edmond hosts a monthly street festival that attracts tens of thousands of people.

Edmond, Oklahoma, features prominently in Oklahoma’s rich history. Located approximately 15 miles north of Oklahoma City, Edmond was a coal and watering stop on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway line before it became a town in 1889. The town is home to the Oklahoma territory’s first church building, continuous newspaper, and public schoolhouse.

Citizens Bank of Edmond (Citizens Bank) was founded in 1901, six years before Oklahoma officially became the country’s 46th state in 1907. Edmond’s citizens founded the bank when they pooled their money to support their new community. The bank’s main office remains at the same intersection the bank’s founders worked from in 1901.

Citizens Bank of Edmond logo

We spoke with Jill Castilla, Citizens Bank’s President and CEO, and Jennifer Wallis, its Chief Impact Officer, to learn more about the bank’s commitment to small businesses and the communities it serves.

Castilla comes from a long line of Citizens Bank employees. Four generations of her family have worked for the bank since 1910. She began her journey with the bank in 1998 when she took a position within its bookkeeping department. After leaving the bank for a stint with the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City, Castilla returned to Citizens Bank in 2009.

“The bank got into trouble during the financial crisis of 2009, and I returned to lead its turnaround,” Castilla said. “We’re now committed to being here for another 100 years.”

Citizens Bank employs 60 people, and Castilla said the bank’s employees own the bank through its employee stock ownership program. During her tenure as CEO, Castilla said she has focused on strengthening community ties.

In 2014, the bank started a street festival that Castilla said has grown into the largest monthly food truck festival in the U.S. Citizens Bank runs a business incubator that allows small businesses in the retail sector to gain experience running a storefront before opening their first location.

“What really sustained the bank through its turnaround was the social capital we had built in our community over the past century,” Castilla explained. “We have a strong commitment to building that part of what doesn’t show on the balance sheet — the capital you’re building in the community. We believe we can lead this industry into the next phase of what it will look like for Generation Z and beyond.”

Helping Small Businesses Overcome Challenges

Citizens Bank streamlined its operations in 2013, consolidating its branch network to one location. Customers can visit the bank branch and conduct banking transactions six days a week. Citizens Bank relies on its technology platform to service most of its customers.

Castilla said Citizens Bank is structured similarly to a credit union. The bank serves numerous consumers who have been customers of Citizens Bank for generations. The bank also has a robust small business and commercial banking portfolio.

Jill Castilla
Jill Castilla is Citizens Bank’s President and CEO.

Citizens Bank enjoys a special bond with its small business customers. Castilla said the bank understands how challenging it can be to start a new business. The bank has a program that allows its staff to learn about the unique situations small business owners encounter daily. Citizens Bank encourages employees to use their knowledge when serving small businesses in the bank’s community.

Citizens Bank provides coaching to help prospective small business owners learn business management. The bank partners with the Independent Shopkeeper’s Association to help assess a new business’s viability.

“We really have a heart for the small business community,” Castilla said. “We care because we experience the same challenges here at the bank. We know how difficult it can be to compete in a tight labor market for high-quality staff.”

Citizens Bank can open treasury management accounts for businesses located anywhere within the U.S. Castilla said it’s rare for a small bank to accept customers from any location in the country, but the bank prides itself on extending convenience to customers.

Citizens Bank has a standalone electronic banking facility that allows small businesses to withdraw up to $10,000 and to deposit and withdraw rolled coins.

“The facility is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so small businesses can access it when it suits them best,” Castilla said. “Providing access to convenient deposit and withdrawal options was a competitive advantage for our business customers during the pandemic.”

Financial Education Propels Community Health

Before joining Citizens Bank, Jennifer Wallis worked for more than 15 years in the consumer credit counseling industry. During that time, she launched programs aimed at helping adults access financial education. She has also traveled the country teaching adults about personal finance and assisting financial institutions to implement financial education and counseling programs.

Wallis, a behavioral financial advisor, said she wants to instill behavioral finance principles in the Citizens Bank community.

Jennifer Wallis
Jennifer Wallis is Citizens Bank’s Chief Impact Officer.

“I can teach budgeting courses and educate people on ways to get out of debt, but behavioral finance highlights an important component of financial education — aligning your behavior with your goals and values,” Wallis said. “We’re planning to offer behavioral finance classes to adults in our community.”

Citizens Bank’s YouTube channel contains educational videos for business and consumer customers. In addition to providing education on bank products and services, the YouTube channel highlights topical concerns from the financial arena.

Wallis said she doesn’t subscribe to shaming people regarding financial education, and she prefers to uplift people and show them how their lives could be easier if they improve their credit and start building their savings.

“Regardless of the financial decisions people have made in their lives, hearing about the mistakes they’ve made isn’t going to motivate them to change,” Wallis said. “The number one thing people need to learn is that, by developing good financial habits now, they can really prevent issues later on down the road.” 

Citizens Bank of Edmond Builds Relationships

Wallis co-founded Oklahoma Invest in Girls, a nonprofit program of the Oklahoma Council on Economic Education, that teaches financial concepts to high-school-aged girls. Through the organization, Wallis coordinates a financial education training program for girls in Citizens Bank’s community.

“The pairing of professional women mentors with the girls is a very powerful component of the program,” Wallis said. “The young women need to hear that it’s not always a straight line to success — there can be serious obstacles you have to overcome.”

Heard on Hurd street festival
The Heard on Hurd festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors.

Another part of the financial education training program provides attendees an opportunity to learn how banking works. Wallis said guest speakers address program participants to give an authentic overview of banking and share industry insights. 

Wallis leads the bank’s monthly street festival, called Heard on Hurd. The festival features retailers and nonprofit organizations, in addition to food trucks. Musical artists provide entertainment at the festival. Wallis said the musical acts perform their own songs at the festival, which doesn’t include cover bands.

“These are artists that are really trying to make it in music,” Wallis detailed. “We want to give them an opportunity to be seen and get in front of a live audience.”

Each instance of Heard on Hurd features more than 60 vendors, and Wallis said the bank partners with the community and local police to close the portion of Edmond’s downtown where the festival takes place. 

“The festival draws anywhere from 25,000 to 50,000 people each month,” Wallis said. “It’s all about building community and coming together for something fun that also returns a lot of money to the area.”