United Community Bank

United recognized as a Model Bank by Celent

Download the Celent Case Study

Celent Award

United Community Bank wins prestigious Celent 2023 Model Bank Award for Embedded Fintech thanks to their success with Autobooks program. 


Go-live for initial release


8 users to 1,318 users

Growth in Autobooks customer usage, in 7 months


1,117% increase in TPV

Growth in total processing volume, in 6 months


United Community Bank
  • $23.7 Billion 
  • Greenville, SC 
  • 193 banking locations 


United has a strong legacy of being customer-centric and improving customer experiences. It has been recognized by J.D. Power, ranking highest in customer satisfaction for retail banking in the Southeast, and by Greenwich for excellence in Small Business Banking and Middle Market Banking (2021). With more than 190 banking locations throughout Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Florida, United provides a full range of consumer and commercial banking products to fit a variety of customer needs. 

The Partnership
  • Launched February 2022 
  • Digital Banking: Q2
  • Autobooks Embedded Client 

As a result of the partnership, United Community Bank small business customers can now self-enroll and access the embedded Autobooks payment processing modules (digital invoicing and card payment processing) directly from their online banking dashboard by simply clicking on either tile, just as easily as using other popular tools like bill pay or remote deposit capture. As a result, customers can receive payments right into their business account, where they can easily manage their cash flow through their trusted banking partner. Customers also have the option of adding accounting, reporting, and bookkeeping tools for a monthly fee — all of which can be accessed through the same interface. 

Key Details
  • Celent’s annual award program recognizes financial institutions as ‘model banks’ for their outstanding technology initiatives. In order to win, the initiatives must demonstrate clear business benefits, innovation, and technology or implementation excellence. 
  • Since turning on the embedded Autobooks modules in late February 2022, United Community Bank has experienced a significant increase in enrollments. It has also seen a corresponding increase in total processing volume (TPV) due to this upswing. 

United Community Bank, a valued partner of Autobooks, has been selected by Celent as the winner of their annual Model Bank award for Embedded Fintech for Small Business. Celent is a global research and advisory firm for the financial services industry. 

Celent’s annual Model Bank Awards recognize the best practices of technology usage in different areas critical to success in banking. Nominations are submitted by financial institutions and undergo a rigorous evaluation process by Celent analysts.  

Celent judges submissions on three core criteria: demonstrable business benefits of live initiatives; the degree of innovation relative to the industry; and the technology or implementation excellence.  

A clear need based on an emerging competitive threat 

Due in large part to emerging consumer habits based on digital payment preferences (e.g., debit card, credit card, native phone payment apps, and the like), small businesses have had to make adjustments to the way they charge and accept payments from their end customers. This need was made more urgent by customer expectations around contactless transactions, mostly spurred by factors related to the recent pandemic.  

This general challenge is allowing third-party, digital-first competitors to thrive. Companies such as Square, PayPal, and Venmo are capitalizing on this opportunity, and offering digital products and services closely aligned to the pressing needs of small business owners. As a result, financial institutions are beginning to see an exodus of small business customers that are seemingly better served by these aggressive vendors.   

United Community Bank responded to this clear need for digital payment processing tools by expanding their Autobooks invoicing and payment processing offering to more effectively compete with third-party apps, while continuing to leverage the bank’s advantage in business expertise and customer support. 

Enter embedded integration with Autobooks 

United Community Bank partnered with Autobooks to enable businesses to accept digital payments. These tools were made available to all United Community Bank digital banking users as part of the standard banking experience — providing a convenient, time-of-need solution for users in search of an easy way to get paid by their customers. However, soon after launching, United decided to make these tools more visible to their digital banking users by also embedding them as tiles into the main dashboard. 

Customers can now quickly locate and access these tools from their main dashboard, via the two digital payment tiles (“Send an invoice” or “Accept a payment”), self-enroll in just a few steps, and either send an invoice or receive a payment within a few minutes in most cases. Customers are also given the option to add-on the full Autobooks suite, including accounting, reporting, and bookkeeping, for a low monthly fee.  

This strategic integration along with the corresponding updates to the digital banking interface, user experience, and onboarding process were quickly embraced by United Community Bank personnel, and seen as a cost-effective way to support existing small business customers and attract new ones by providing a payment processing solution comparable to those offered by popular third-party apps like Square and PayPal, but with integration into their banking environment and at more transparent rates. 

A significant increase in customer enrollments and usage 

Since turning on the embedded Autobooks modules in late February 2022, the bank has experienced a significant increase in enrollments. In January 2022, the month prior to launching the embedded modules, the bank had one enrollment; in February there were eight. The enrollment numbers continued to steadily increase. In September, for example, 1,318 customers enrolled in the Autobooks payment processing modules. United also saw a corresponding increase of 1,117% in total processing volume (TPV) due to this upswing. 

The biggest goal with this project was to reduce the barrier of entry for small and micro businesses during the account enrollment experience. Based on the encouraging, ‘hockey stick’ rise in enrollments, it’s become clear to bank leadership that the pivot to the freemium model was the right decision to breathe new life to this program.  

By offering embedded invoicing and payment form capabilities with no commitment or monthly service fee, and providing the ability to get paid with a credit card or ACH, the Autobooks program made available to United Community Bank customers stands out from standard bank offerings in the market today, and allows the bank to compete with disruptive third-party app providers.   

Over time, Autobooks helps financial institutions regain primacy 

Autobooks research has uncovered a startling statistic related to small business customers who rely on third-party apps for payment processing: for every $1 deposited into their institution, $7 stayed in their third-party wallet/balance. Any effort to combat this increased infiltration by third parties into existing banking relationships is a welcomed one. 

To illustrate this point, customers who enroll in Autobooks, and become steady users, tend to increase their relationship depth by 61%, i.e., they purchase almost double the number of products from their financial institution. This is the kind of account engagement that financial institutions dream of; after all, these are the customers that often generate higher non-interest fee income, higher deposits, and more lending opportunities over the course of their relationship.

Want to learn more about why Celent chose United Community Bank as a model bank for 2023?