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Success story

SouthStar Bank Explains its “Amazing” Experience Shifting Left with Ivanti

As the financial services segment bears down on expediting digital transformation, SouthStar Bank has capitalised on successful past efforts, a clear roadmap for the future – and its partnership with Ivanti, which it considers “amazing”.

Serving up better customer service

As a community bank specialising in residential mortgage, real estate and construction lending, SouthStar Bank operates 16 full-service branches across Central Texas, managing over $1.2 billion in assets and deposits. SouthStar was founded in 1920 and is based in Moulton — midway between San Antonio and Houston.

Thanks to its focus on community involvement and personal relationships, SouthStar is one of biggest independent banks in Texas. It has earned a five-star rating from Bauer Financial, an independent research firm that evaluates banks and credit unions, and superlative reviews from its customers.

To better serve their amazing customers and community, the bank knew early on that it had to improve its digital employee experience to free staffers from tech-related issues so they could give customers their undivided attention.

In 2016, that led them to start working with Ivanti, implementing LANdesk and Ivanti Endpoint Manager (EPM) to deliver consistent digital services while improving patching and endpoint security – critical for a financial firm that needs to abide by FDIC regulations. SouthStar’s growth, propelled by the merger with two other banks, meant it was vital that IT kept pace with that growth and new demands for asset management, environment management and application control.

A partner in picking up the pace

According to Jesse Miller, VP/IT Specialist/Security Officer at SouthStar Bank, meeting those demands next led him to transition from his on-prem LANDesk solution to cloud-based Ivanti Neurons. “We ended up being the very first customer to buy Neurons,” he said. But partnering with Ivanti went beyond picking a product. As Jesse puts it, his account technology specialist at Ivanti, Nick Gehr, “told me, ‘Let's put the technology aside and talk about your goals and map out where you want to be. You’re going to see there are amazing things ahead of you.’”

Roadmapping was crucial due to the changes underway in SouthStar’s industry. As Jesse points out, the financial services industry – which is inherently cautious – has “tended to lag behind about 10 years, technologically.”

COVID-19 changed that. “There’s been a really big push,” he says, “to get from 10 miles an hour to 100 really quickly.” With the emphasis on quickly, as banks pivoted to embrace digital transformation with remarkable speed.

Solutions like Ivanti Neurons helped Jesse and his team deliver against that goal by having a system in place that could automatically remediate problems before they were noticed by users, as well as automate request workflows. “You have time to spend on all those bigger issues and progress on that maturity path,” he explains, “which is very important.”

Neuron’s capabilities were eye-opening: “The introduction of bots and automation, and the ability to build my own little customised tools just for us, was a whole new concept,” Jesse says. Yet, “deployment was super easy and took me literally five minutes. And then I was able to manage everything from my garage in 112-degree weather in Texas that August.”

At the other extreme, during the “Great Texas Freeze” that struck in 2021, “I was managing an emergency situation off an iPad through Neurons, and it was like, ‘Okay, I can handle this.’ I never would have been able to do that otherwise.”

The amount of support and collaboration he got from Ivanti was, to his mind, “amazing.” As he experienced it, “everybody there gives you the time of day and more, even though we might be considered a small business. Who else would give us that kind of time even if we’re not a Fortune 100? So that is huge.”

Neurons is a multifaceted tool, depending on how you want to use it. You're only limited by how creative you are and how much time you're able to put into it. But creativity is really the only limiting factor on that.

“I’m shifting all that left”

Neurons automation has lifted tasks off the IT team’s plate. “There are certain services or applications that should be running every day for every user at all times,” Jesse says. “So if a user logs in and it's not mapping to a server, they're going to create a ticket saying, 'I don't have my drives.' If we can go in automatically and detect and then just fix it, then they won't submit an IT ticket. I'm shifting all that left and letting the bots handle it.

“Same thing about laptop battery life,” he continues. “It gets checked every two days, so if it drops below a threshold, it triggers certain actions” such as device repair or replacement to maintain productivity.

Other capabilities are no less important. With Ivanti Neurons, the IT team has greater visibility into its whole asset estate and enjoys a tailored security experience specific to SouthStar Bank. The visibility and automation delivered by Ivanti Neurons for Patch Management, for instance, has saved them “several days a month” researching and resolving vulnerabilities by providing accurate data so they can isolate device issues with patches, zero-day threats and out-of-band updates.

Regulatory demands make reporting an enormous task for any bank. SouthStar spends “probably four months of the year in audits,” Jesse says, plus mandatory FDICIA reporting. So Ivanti Xtraction and custom integrations to expedite reporting have been essential.

Ivanti Neurons enables what I call ‘contactless intervention’ and you can create ‘custom actions.’ As part of this, we needed to determine if we wanted to solve small problems continuously or let small problems solve themselves, which would let us get to the big stuff. One example of the big stuff is tracking our CMDB better, which we’re moving towards with Ivanti Neurons for ITAM. We’ll have actionable data ahead of time.

“The Oprah effect” in customer support

Another aspect of SouthStar’s relationship with Ivanti that Jesse greatly appreciates is the strength of the user community his team has been able to access. They’ve become proactive in setting up user gatherings to share and address common use cases — so much so they called these gatherings “The Breakfast Club,” complete with bespoke coffee mugs. They still meet every other week.

As for the customer support he receives, Jesse says, “I did not have the greatest experience before with CSMs, and the ones at Ivanti have been night-and-day different.” One of them has “the Oprah effect,” he claims, “because everybody wants to smile and thinks that the world’s going to better a better place…she turns an untenable situation into amazing.”

When he tallies it up, Jesse says it would be “overwhelmingly difficult” for any organisation using only manual processes and other technologies to approach what he’s achieved with Ivanti. And doing it that way would be prohibitively expensive and difficult.

“To do it all and manage it to meet regulatory standards? Could you do it?” he says. “Sure — if you love spending your time, effort and money just to say you did it. Hey, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done, but I’m sure you could drive your car with your feet, too.”

Note: A customer’s results are specific to its total environment/experience, of which Ivanti is a part. Individual results may vary based on each customer’s unique environment.


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