Feb 12 2021

How HCI Helped FNCB Bank Grow in Uncertain Times

Hyperconverged infrastructure enabled staff to process federal loan applications from home.

When the pandemic closed businesses last year, organizations in many industries scrambled to deploy remote work environments, forcing IT and business leaders to rethink remote security, cloud posture, digital transformation projects and more. Those businesses were the lucky ones: Many that couldn’t transition to remote work were simply stymied, dependent on government-backed loans to try to survive the crisis.

The industry that may have had the hardest time is banking. Banks are generally not well-positioned for remote work. In addition, many of their customers — business owners, depositors and borrowers — were suddenly out of work.

Meanwhile, banks were central to the nation’s efforts to recover economically. While the federal government’s Paycheck Protection Program delivered a critical lifeline to businesses and their employees, it was local banks to which the government turned to process the loans and deliver the funds, and then to manage the process of forgiving those loans for borrowers who qualified — all of it using underwriting rules written in Washington, never seen before by any commercial loan officer.

“Learning the PPP loan process and developing our policies and procedures while working from home was very communication-intensive — a lot of phone calls, a lot of hours booked,” says Keehna Murphy, manager of the commercial underwriting group at FNCB Bank, a 17-branch community institution based in Dunmore, Penn. “It was crazy.”

Fortunately for FNCB employees, they were able to manage the unusual circumstances more easily than many of their peers because of data center upgrades that were completed just weeks before the pandemic began in the United States.

How a New Data Center Enabled Remote Work

In December 2019, FNCB upgraded its data center to Lenovo switches and hyperconverged infrastructure powered by Nutanix. Bank officials had no idea that a crisis was looming, but the timing of the upgrade was nevertheless fortuitous. Had it not been for the new data center, the bank’s IT team would have had a much more difficult time moving its staff offsite, says Ronald Honick, senior vice president and technology services officer at FNCB.

“Using the Lenovo and Nutanix solution, we had that ability to let them safely work remotely,” says Honick. “We could not have done that in our old data center.”

Of course, FNCB made the upgrade with the goal of gaining improved performance, greater scalability, simplified management and enhanced disaster recovery capabilities. It received those benefits and then some, says Kirk S. Borchert, a vice president and technology services officer.

“It’s nothing short of fantastic,” he says, noting that the bank’s IT staff has appreciated the simplified management that comes with hyperconverged systems. “Their lives are so much easier maintaining these systems, and the stability is amazing.”

Learn how FNCB was able to continue serving its customers amid disruptions.

Hyperconverged Infrastructure Supports Cost-Effective Growth 

Data center upgrades aren’t one-size-fits-all projects, but many of today’s trends, including hyperconverged infrastructure, deliver big returns in terms of agility and scalability, says Laura DiDio, principal of Information Technology Intelligence Consulting.

“It’s important to consider not just what you’re doing now but what your networking is going to look like two years from now,” she says.

Indeed, when Honick and Borchert began plotting out FNCB’s data center strategy, they knew that achieving greater agility was a critical objective. The bank is growing, but predicting growth over long periods of time is difficult. It needed an infrastructure that could support its growth cost-effectively, allowing it to scale up or down as needed. HCI is ideal in such circumstances.

The real-time visibility afforded by FNCB’s new hyperconverged infrastructure was revolutionary. “I don’t need to spend an extra 30 percent up front, and also I’m not going to have a headache later on,” Honick says. “I can see as I’m getting closer to that threshold and can budget and plan in advance.”

Matthew Furman