It’s 1960 in the Bronx, New York. Practically every bank has abandoned the so-called “community in decline” except for two migrants from Puerto Rico—who saw overwhelming potential in the borough’s low- to moderate-income inhabitants. Serving the New York City Metro Area for more than 60 years, Ponce Bank is now certified by the U.S. Department of the Treasury as a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI). This means the bank is required to invest 60% of its loans back into the communities it serves, and in reality, it often surpasses this threshold, investing 80% or more.
Originally hired to lead branch transformation, Steve Hamilton has extensive experience outside the banking world. A champion for design-led innovation, he brings a valuable experimentation mindset to Ponce as its Senior Vice President and Designer-in-Residence. When the Covid pandemic hit, Steve’s focus shifted to crisis communications and how the company would adopt an agile mindset. Working with a traditional CMS, he didn’t have the power or control to manage Ponce’s main marketing site and other web properties. As a result, Ponce was left unable to control its narrative—which, ultimately, made it harder to demonstrate how community banking could be used as a powerful engine for social equity.
Cashing in on design-led marketing and unprecedented agility
As the primary means of our marketing efforts, our digital presence has gone through a transformative change with Webflow.
Most small community banks today use one of three financial technology tools. These solutions offer a most-sizes-fits-all bundle of web offerings, forcing teams to sacrifice agility, quality, and control. For Ponce, account support was slow and inattentive at best, and the team had to go through a month-long process with developers to make the simplest changes, like replacing an image. Until they staged anything on the site, they didn’t know what it was going to look like—and once they did, they’d often needed to make changes, which was frustrating, time consuming, and costly.
Manako Tamura, Ponce’s Customer Experience Designer and the first design hire after Steve, led a comprehensive analysis of CMS platforms and typical agencies to determine how best to move forward. Webflow Enterprise was the marketing-friendly solution that would allow the team—now seven in total—to take ownership of their brand narrative, make metrics-driven decisions, and support the future launch and growth of a digital bank.
For additional support when onboarding and learning Webflow, Ponce worked with Webflow Expert Zabal Media, which quickly became an extension of their team. “Zabal was truly our consultative partner and helped expedite our learning of Webflow.” Zabal also helped break down historical silos within Ponce and engaged all departments, asking for feedback along the way to ensure everyone felt invested in the final results.
The new site is hardly recognizable compared to its predecessor: Information is well-organized and easy to navigate, taking users through a compelling narrative that prioritizes accessibility and usability. Plus, Steve’s team now has access to important site metrics—like who’s visiting the website and how they’re engaging—which allows the team to continue to optimize for performance.
As a bank, website changes often require a two-week compliance review, but what previously took one month to build now takes Ponce two to three days—or sometimes just a few hours. They can finally create in-house content, from landing pages to blog posts, quickly and without help from developers. “Webflow is a really powerful way to efficiently apply our foundational branding to all of these other initiatives,” says Manako. By migrating all of their professional brand sites to Webflow, and leveraging a powerful design system, the team operates with full ownership of their brand. “We envision Webflow as the mothership for all of our brands across our organization, including Ponce Radio, the Ponce de Leon Foundation, Ponce University, and Mortgage World Bankers, our residential mortgage company.”
Pushing the creative limits on and offline
Having the flexibility and ability to make changes in Webflow without relying on anyone is really powerful. If we know anything is possible, it gives us more room to get creative and constantly improve.
Across the bank, every department has seen the brand come to life, and is now even more invested in its success. “We’re all excited for the possibilities with Webflow,” Manako says. Even the CFO requested to leverage the team’s expertise to update our investor relations website.
Zabal Media also helped Ponce identify how to properly grow their SEO ranking and optimize traffic via Google ads, giving teams across the bank greater visibility into campaigns, and the ability to track ROI. Now that the team has the flexibility and speed with Webflow, they’re able to increase the velocity of their web builds. In 3 months, the team launched more than 6 pages, compared to 3 the entire previous year.
For example, a recent activation was the 116th Street Festival, an annual celebration of Puerto Rican history. Ponce Bank always has a booth present to celebrate its Puerto Rican roots and connect with the community. This year, they spun up a webpage to serve as the main hub for lead generation. At the last minute, they realized they needed a second landing page specifically for a sweepstakes they were running at the festival booth—and were able to create one in 2 days thanks to Webflow.
For the first time ever, Ponce has the ability to track the ROI of the festival (the previous year, they collected phone numbers on physical tickets, but they needed to be manually entered into their CRM system and it proved difficult to follow up). This year, Ponce’s booth had a QR code for attendees to scan that led them to the main landing page, where they could fill out a form to enter the sweepstakes. The form submissions are then synced to their CRM which allows them to automate distribution of the leads and follow up accordingly.
Becoming a $5 billion bank by 2025
Webflow allows us to focus on our mission–bringing joy to banking by treating every customer like they are our best customer.
As Ponce grows, the team is confident Webflow will scale with them: Their “5x25” initiative centers around the goal to double in size and become a $5 billion bank by 2025. Recently recertified as a CDFI, Ponce’s goal for growth revolves around being able to move into their communities and offer everyone the concierge-level financial services they deserve—and that can only be done with technological efficiency.
“Webflow fulfills my purpose at Ponce,” says Steve, “which is to empower my team to constantly evaluate, improve upon, innovate, iterate, and transform in order to deliver on our mission.”