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Banks and credit unions alike often find themselves wondering how they can further connect with their local communities. In this FI Highlight, Christopher McGill, president and CEO of East River Bank in Philadelphia, discusses how his bank’s marketing initiatives are helping to drive community engagement.

In a few sentences, can you tell us a bit more about East River Bank?

East River Bank is Philadelphia’s most advanced neighborhood bank with three convenient Philadelphia-area branch locations in East Falls, Roxborough and Old City. We offer a full range of financial services for both personal and business customers, including access to more than 55,000 surcharge-free ATMs through the Allpoint network, our courier service and free online banking at featuring Finance Works™ powered by Quicken.

What value does East River Bank see in connecting with members of the local Philadelphia community?

We partner with numerous organizations in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia through sponsorships, financial support and volunteering. It is through these partnerships that we are able to connect with our neighbors and customers. By getting to know each community, we can better tailor our services to what our customers want and need.

Does East River Bank have any current initiatives in place to increase engagement with the local community?

In the last year, we have taken our ‘Bank Local’ tagline a step further in an effort to increase engagement with local communities by using real East River Bank customers and Philadelphia business owners on our outdoor advertising campaigns.  While banks traditionally use stock imagery, we are using real people on our billboards, bus backs and transit shelters to pay homage to the individuals that live and work in the area.

 What feedback has East River Bank received from this initiative?

We have received positive feedback across the board. Not only do people enjoy seeing their favorite local business owners on billboards, but they also appreciate that we are changing the way banks advertise. Many of the types of people that are typically overlooked in bank advertising are now the stars of our ads and that has gone over extremely well our customers and community.

How did the internal team at East River Bank think of this creative idea? Do you have any processes in place to always be thinking of new ideas like this?

We work with a marketing partner, Neff Associates, and together we worked to create an overall message that would convey how much we value our commitment to our communities. The idea of using real people was risky because we had never before seen anything like it, but the risk paid off. We found that being ourselves helped the consistency in the marketing message, customer experience and our culture internally. Keep it simple and be yourself.

What can other financial institutions learn from East River Bank?

Other financial institutions can learn to think more outside of the box like we did. By focusing on our customers rather than what was expected of us, we were inspired and came up with a campaign that really works and that we’re really proud of.

To learn more about East River Bank, please visit, and follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for their most up-to-date events and community happenings.



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James W. Gabberty

Gabberty is a professor of information systems at Pace University in New York City. An alumnus of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and New York University Polytechnic Institute, he has served as an expert witness in telecommunication and information security at the federal and state levels and holds numerous certifications from SANS & ISACA.

Marisa Mann

Marisa Mann brings over 15 years of experience in consulting and financial services industries to the Solstice team, working on large scale enterprise initiatives across many technologies, including specializing in the digital space – Internet and mobile. Mann is passionate about mobile and the endless possibilities for the enterprise, delivering business value through strong brand recognition and driving to excellence in the consumer experience. Prior to Solstice, Mann worked at JP Morgan Chase, Diamond Management and Technology Consultants, Washington Mutual, Inc, and Accenture.

Brad Strothkamp

Zachary Ehrlich

25-year-old writer, and as a native San Franciscan, I am unreasonably loyal to Bank of America, if only for their superhero-like origin story, involving the 1906 earthquake and Italian fruit vendors.