How can a community bank show its appreciation to customers? One way Oxford Bank in Oxford, Mich., does so is by bridging the gap between customers and financial education through quarterly customer appreciation events. 

The $840 million-asset community bank focuses on notable issues not only within the financial sector but also in the broader economy and on an individual level. This past March, the community bank focused on an ever-evolving topic: cybersecurity. 

“Cybersecurity is the biggest risk every business in this country faces,” says Dave Lamb, president and CEO of Oxford Bank. “It’s not just the banks. It’s our business customers as individuals. And we know that people, particularly small- and even some mid-size businesses, really struggle for resources on how to protect themselves.”

That’s why Oxford Bank brought in the big guns: the FBI. The community bank invited customers to learn directly from FBI personnel, who proved to be ideal speakers for the event. 

“We have had trouble getting the right speaker for cyber, because either they’re too technical, or if we just have a bank specialist do it, the problem is what we do is far beyond what most of our business customers would do or are capable of doing,” explains Lamb.

Dealing with cyber breaches

For this session, a supervisory agent, cyber expert and business liaison special agent from the FBI’s Michigan field office presented. 

Topics included basic cybersecurity hygiene, such as how to avoid spam emails, questionable links and ransomware. The agents also told instructive stories about businesses that have dealt with cybersecurity threats. The audience had the opportunity to participate in a Q&A following the presentation. 

According to Lamb, the FBI—particularly the Michigan field office—has a great outreach program and was excited to come speak when the bank made the request. During the presentation, the FBI agents also explained how they can help local businesses deal with cyberattacks and encouraged businesses experiencing breaches to reach out.

According to Matt DeFinis, Oxford Bank’s senior marketing specialist, the interactive session made the FBI feel much more approachable. 

“One person [who attended the event] actually mentioned that they were going to be reaching out to them because they had recently had a breach,” DeFinis says. “It was beneficial to them to know, ‘Hey, I can reach out to this agency.’”

“As we’re educating our customers, there’s always something else that is coming out. So, we’re making sure we are being forward-thinking and looking out for things we can tell our customers about that most people don’t even know about yet.”
—Nancy Rosentrater, Oxford Bank

Continued personal finance education

Oxford Bank covers a variety of educational topics within its events and plans to continue to supply its customers with information and resources. Most of the time, the community bank’s customer appreciation events are held virtually. Initially, this was due to the pandemic, but now that format allows the bank to reach a wider audience.

Despite the FBI event being exclusively in-person, it garnered an audience of 40 customers, plus staff members from the bank. “This was our best event we’ve ever had, by far,” notes Lamb.

Aside from these customer appreciation events, Oxford has built up an information center on its website and social media that includes articles and explainers about fraud prevention, phishing, cybersecurity and cyber awareness. In addition, the bank’s branches have cybersecurity tips rotating on their displays. 

Nancy Rosentrater, the community bank’s chief operating officer, notes that cybersecurity continues to shift and change, which makes Oxford’s efforts even more important.

“As we’re educating our customers, there’s always something else that is coming out,” she says. “So, we’re making sure we are being forward-thinking and looking out for things we can tell our customers about that most people don’t even know about yet.”

Oxford’s educational resources and events are constantly evolving to meet customer needs. The bank works to further protect its customers with additional security measures within the financial institution, including multifactor authentication, firewalls and intrusion detection. 

“We’re constantly trying to figure out how we can bring value to the customers. Our tagline is, ‘Delivering value for life,’” says Lamb. “We think of information they might not have access to, and we can get it for them.”