Feb 8, 2022 - Business

Arvest Bank charts digital future with new executive

Two headshots of Melanie Fuller and Laura Merling.

Melanie Fuller, president of digital banking, and Laura Merling, chief operations and transformation officer for Arvest Bank. Photos courtesy of Arvest

The bank that traces its charter back to 1871 is laying the groundwork for its next 100 years.

Driving the news: Arvest Bank revealed today that it hired Laura Merling as its chief operations and transformation officer. Merling was most recently the CTO at Google Cloud and has spent most of her career in Silicon Valley.

  • While the news comes today, she started her job in October. She wanted a chance to get to know the bank before her public reveal, she told Axios.

Details: In a news release, Arvest said Merling will lead the company's transformation strategy. That includes adopting a new banking platform and increasing its abilities in digital payments and services, like Venmo or PayPal.

  • Most regional banks like Arvest have back-office systems that were designed more for the days of paper checks and cash than for apps and transfers.

The big picture: The pandemic accelerated the adoption of online and mobile banking for people of all ages, reducing the need for hyper-convenient brick-and-mortar locations and related expenses.

  • And, more than a quarter of global consumers use a nontraditional bank (think digital-first, such as Ally or Chime), though it may not be their primary bank.

What they're saying: In a conversation with Axios, Merling said she spent the first few months on the job evaluating what change looks like for the bank and understanding its culture.

  • The next 120 days will be focused on creating a strategy and making small adjustments for both customers and employees.

Merling was mum on details of the bank's strategy but said transformation means focusing on its customers, operational efficiency and new opportunities.

A photo of Arvest Bank's Fayetteville HQ.
Arvest Bank's downtown Fayetteville headquarters. Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Flashback: In September, the bank hired former JPMorgan Chase product leader Melanie Fuller as president of its new digital banking solutions.

By the numbers: Arvest is the state's largest bank by deposits ($13.3 billion) and assets ($26.5 billion), as of Sept. 30, the most recent data available from the FDIC.

  • It has about 226 locations in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma
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