A Company You Can Bank On
Family-strong Frontline STC, Inc. supports the high-level needs of financial institutions
Like the precision of when—and how—a bank opens, the so-called “8 o’clock call” involving managers at Frontline STC, Inc. (Frontline) helps keep the company in a preferred service-provider position among banks and credit unions in Arizona and California.
Frontline specializes in designing and installing systems and building business spaces for its clients in the financial field. At 8 a.m. daily, the company leaders meet on the phone to discuss the day’s concerns…and more.
“We pull up articles and discuss them,” says Morgan Smith, Frontline’s President and CEO. “They can be about customer care, COVID-19 impacts, data security, tech advancements or any number of other topics. We want to know what issues are relevant so we can steer our efforts based on a full understanding of our customers’ needs.”
The leaders who participate in these teleconferences include Jennifer Hann, CFO; Tom Diehl, Vice President of Construction Services; Jeffery Fry, Vice President of Business Development; Hunter Smith, Chief Marketing Officer (and Morgan’s son); and Morgan.
These daily calls symbolize Frontline’s commitment to serving a dynamic industry. Frontline’s leadership aspires to exhibit the same values as a local bank. Even though banking is increasingly done online these days, the physical space that a bank or financial institution occupies still commands importance in consumers’ minds. When a banking customer enters a credit union or bank, he or she enters a venerable environment that conjures feelings of trustworthiness, stability, neighborliness, authority, honesty and service—and it’s Frontline’s job to ensure those become apparent.
Frontline is a general contractor that specializes in designing and integrating the sophisticated and fail-proof technology, security and systems that businesses and corporations require today.
“STC” in the company’s name stands for the specialties of security, technology and construction. Financial institutions seek out Frontline’s services most often, but the company also delivers the same type of services for all commercial businesses, industrial and institutional organizations that increasingly need expert synergistic tech and security in their physical properties.
The company is a certified dealer for The Gunnebo Group, Hamilton Security (a subsidiary of The Gunnebo Group) and Salient Systems. It sells, installs and services all of the products as a turnkey solution provider. Companies call on Frontline for tenant improvements, new commercial construction and security installation projects. Frontline has offices east of Los Angeles in San Dimas, California, and northwest of Phoenix in Glendale, Arizona.
Offering turnkey solutions means Frontline excels at integrating all aspects of a project and can take on projects from conception to the grand opening and daily operations. The numerous pieces of the whole—security systems, floor plans, teller windows, lighting, furniture, etc.—that make a business and especially a bank run efficiently are designed and installed to the client’s specifications. “When a vault goes in the design, so does an alarm device and so does the cabling—all in the right place,” Morgan says.
He adds, “The biggest problem in this business is change orders; we minimize those by concentrating on good planning and design. This distinguishes us from others. We typically have only 2% to 3% change orders on all categories while many companies have 10% to 15%.”
It comes down to valuing continuity, and Frontline’s family-owned and -operated approach ensures that advantage. Morgan succeeded his father, J.R. Smith, in running the company and Morgan’s son, Hunter, is next in line.
“People always say you don’t want to mix business with family, but I love it,” Hunter says. “My dad and I start the day on the phone at 6:30—even before the 8 o’clock call—to prioritize the day.”
Frontline’s history also includes a connection with a key feature of modern banking history. In 1992, the company opened in response to the growing interest in bank customer money access through automated teller machines, better known as ATMs. Morgan’s father, J.R., who owned a locks and safes business, launched Frontline with a focus on installing equipment for ATMs manufactured by Diebold, Incorporated. By the mid-1990s, more than half of the ATMs in operation in the U.S. were made by Diebold, now known as Diebold Nixdorf, Incorporated.
J.R. soon learned that installing ATMs required more than product and technology knowledge. A full business approach also involved sales—and eventually construction. That’s where Morgan came in.
“I was a contractor and Dad had the business sense to ask me to join him and drive sales,” Morgan says. “We didn’t build the structures housing ATMs at the time, but we eventually added construction and that became a major part of our service.”
The father-son pairing proved to be effective. J.R., who turns 90 this year, excelled at working with customers to determine how to meet and exceed their banking needs. Morgan took on the contractor role and proved himself to be quite adept at configuring and installing the electronics and technology that make ATMs and many other aspects of today’s banking services work well. Morgan assumed leadership of Frontline in 1995. Since then, he has successfully guided Frontline through the next tech evolution: TCRs or teller cash recyclers, the stand-alone high-tech machines that both receive and correctly route customers’ deposit and withdrawal forms and then dole out cash as requested, too.
Family-oriented dependability propelled Frontline forward even amid widespread challenges related to the financial crisis of 2007-08, leading to the Great Recession. Even though many banks failed, the financial institutions that did survive were merging and actually, albeit cautiously, adding branches.
Those branches needed the same highly secure and efficient capabilities as their parent institutions. In Arizona and California, Frontline became a dependable partner for major entities in the banking industry, such as Chase Bank, CBRE, Wells Fargo, Navy Federal Credit Union, Desert Financial Credit Union and California Credit Union.
“We are a proud partner of Chase Bank,” Morgan says. “Besides tech upgrades, we regularly provide branch refreshes and general construction services to ensure that their numerous branches are always up-to-date and functioning at a high level.”
The CBRE (Coldwell Banker Richard Ellis) connection has led to many other opportunities for Frontline. CBRE, one of the largest commercial real estate services companies in the world, focuses on occupiers of and investors in real estate—and obviously financial institutions figure prominently in that space.
Through Morgan’s leadership, Frontline grew to be a full-service turnkey solution provider. And the family legacy has ensured company success as it enters its third decade. Though Hunter is in his early 20s, the next leader of Frontline has already proven his benefit to the company while serving as the Chief Marketing Officer. He joined Frontline this year with a good foundation from his previous time working for a major security alarm company right after college.
“Hunter is key to our efforts in an always-evolving banking and financial industry to stay ahead of the trends,” Morgan says. “Banking is not static; we’re always looking at how to improve things, how to lower costs and how to make each installation better.”
Besides the 8 o’clock call for company leaders, all Frontline employees regularly attend and participate in learning opportunities. The company’s 22 employees are near equally distributed in the roles of management personnel, project leads and installers. Throughout the year, team members attend state and national banking shows and training sessions hosted by Credit Union Times and various credit union leagues.
“We are invested in both customers and in our employees because the proficiency of our employees directly affects our customers,” Morgan says. “We work together as a team. We are not just a sales team like so many others; we do the work ourselves—like we always have.”
It’s all part of Frontline’s motto of living up to the “Three Cs,” according to Morgan. “We communicate daily and frequently, we value commitment from a project’s start to its finish, and we prioritize project completion, not 90% completion like many companies,” he says.
The company counts as its more visible successes the work performed for the California Credit Union headquartered in Glendale, and its work for Desert Financial Credit Union and Tucson Federal Credit Union. For the California Credit Union, Frontline completed a multifloor tenant improvement in a high-rise building. For the other two entities, Frontline has performed numerous projects ranging from new construction to tenant improvement.
“We have had the pleasure to work with Frontline on a few projects and truly enjoy working with Morgan and his team,” says Brenda Sharpless, Manager of Building Operations with Desert Financial Credit Union. “From conception, design, execution, through to completion, the group is well trained for all aspects. Communication is an essential part…Frontline does [an] excellent job of utilizing the daily reports to keep all stakeholders in the loop on the progress of the project.”
Frontline is applying a similar commitment to another client’s current dream. Wanting to serve its community better, Tucson Federal Credit Union decided to repurpose space inside one of its existing branches to become a community event center. The credit union will even use the space to provide classes for the general public about basic banking skills and smart money management.
The individuals who utilize the banks and credit unions served by Frontline are unaware of the contractor’s efforts to provide peace of mind, safety, comfort and financial security. However, these financial institutions know—and they keep calling on Frontline to ensure the satisfaction of their customers.