A (Video) Visit from St. Nicholas

By Craig Colgan

There is good news from the North Pole: Santa is doing just fine these days. And even though he had to cancel many in-person visits, a couple local banks found a way to make those connections happen for families and kids.

PCSB Bank, based in Clarinda, Iowa, and StonehamBank in Stoneham, Massachusetts provided live virtual direct access to the Big Guy himself through their video banking applications. Bank employees stepped up with beards and red suits to channel as much Santa cheer as could possibly transfer through computer screens to appreciative families. Families made appointments and simply downloaded an app or clicked on a web link to connect to Santa from their living rooms.

PCSB offered use of its POPio Mobile Video Cloud virtual banking solution after Clarinda’s annual Santa visit was canceled because of pandemic concerns.

“When we learned that the children in our town would miss out on meeting Santa Claus this year, we were crushed—and determined to find a way to help,” says James Johnson, CEO of PCSB Bank. “POPio helped us put a branch in your pockets, and now, we’re bringing Santa’s workshop to your living room as well. We’re thrilled to launch this program and bring some merriness and cheer to all the people we know and love in this great community.”

Families were delighted that their banks not only made the effort but that the tech worked just fine.

“This is genius!” says Katy Longfellow, of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, whose son had a chat with Santa thanks to PCSB. The family’s move back to the U.S. this year from Belgium, in the middle of a global pandemic, took some doing, so their son Winston’s chat with Santa meant a lot. “It was simple for us, and magic for our son. It was much more than talking wish-lists for toys. They even talked about Belgian Christmas traditions! Thanks to PCSB, Santa bridged the gap in a year of tremendous social and cultural change for our son. I had tears in my eyes, but my son could only declare ‘My face hurts from smiling!’ after his Santa call ended.”

PCSB hired a local professional real-bearded Santa, Rob Marsh, who traditionally does in-person visits in the Clarinda Lions Club Santa House. The bank set up three Santa video stations in its Clarinda bank center, one in an office and two in the board room. Five employees ended up serving in the lead role, including CEO Johnson.

Mobile video providers have seen their solutions come in handy in multiple ways this year for banks and were happy to find a new way to show off their capabilities. StonehamBank offered use of its Face2Face video banking app, and had a similar positive response to its Santa, in this case Michael McGrath, a bank employee.

“This year is looking a lot different for families and we wanted to find a way to spread holiday cheer safely,” says Edward F. Doherty Jr, StonehamBank CEO. “We had an overwhelming response to this event. Our team was so happy we were able to offer this to our community members.”

Craig Colgan is digital editor of the ABA Banking Journal, where he edits the ABA Bank Marketing and ABA Risk and Compliance channels.

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Craig Colgan

Craig Colgan is a staff writer at the ABA Banking Journal.