The Importance of Business Owner/Bank Relationships
Whether you are an entrepreneur starting up a company or an established business owner who wants to expand or deepen your market share, business clients seeking to forge a satisfying commercial customer banking relationship in today's highly competitive marketplace are often confronted with a dizzying array of choices. Is the bank financially healthy?
Drawing on advice from industry leaders and from our seasoned management at Fox Chase Bank we wanted to offer business owners some helpful suggestions on how to steer your way through the maze of options and craft a relationship that provides you the value, consistency, accessibility, trust and commitment that you and your business deserve.
First and foremost, experts suggest that rather than being dazzled by clever niche marketing or particular product offers, the business owner should look to reliable, high-quality customer service as the hallmark that differentiates the best business-oriented banks from the rest of the pack. As the writer of an article on the business resource website Bizjournal.com asserted, when considering a relationship with a bank, commercial customers should look first for an institution that will furnish them with a "committed, long-term partnership."
The ABC'S of Relationship Banking
A bank business partnership goes well beyond a transactional relationship but is one of mutual and maturing value to you and the bank alike. The author of the Bizjournal.com article suggests that you, as a business owner, should consider certain critical elements before forging a relationship with a bank. Here are some questions to ask before you commit to a long-term relationship:
Does it supply the type of support, loan and deposit products you need for your unique business needs?
Will it support your own business priorities? (1)
In an article entitled "Five Reasons to Find a New Bank" (Microsoft.com), Missouri-based bank marketing and brand management expert Charlene Stern suggests that business owners ask the following questions: "When you go to your bank, do they listen to what you want before they try to sell you something? Do they push products in your face? (2)"
If your "relationship-manager" (or lender) knows you and your business and is looking out for your interests, then they aren't going to try to sell you products that don't meet your specific needs. It's how they offer the product to make it relevant to a need that the customer has and how they serve the customer that makes them who they are.
Relationship-Based Banking: It takes more than two
"Banking is a service business. We are providing financial products through a series of service encounters," says Chief Payments Officer Kerry Lynch. "If those service encounters cannot be conducted in a personable, professional, and knowledgeable way, customers vote with their feet and we've lost the game. While it may sound easy, good service is one of the toughest things for a bank to get right."
At Fox Chase, the relationship manager, or lender, is the primary staff person charged with making sure that commercial clients get that knowledgeable professional advice, guidance and service.
Dependability and Accessibility: Answers When and Where You Need Them
If you run your own business, you know that very often you need an answer to an urgent question the same day, if not within a few hours. Business clients will want to make sure that when choosing a bank as a business partner they can access someone who can answer their questions within a reasonable time period.
When considering beginning a relationship with a bank, clients will also want to look at the bank's level of commitment to their neighborhood. Do they have lots of local customers? How long have they been in the community? A senior economist at the National Federation of Independent Bankers, Bruce Philips, asserts that in terms of stability, a local institution might make a more reliable partner than a national bank, according to the Bizjournal.com article. (3)
Relationship-based banks, like Fox Chase, have one major advantage and that is accessibility. If appropriate, a business client can have access to managers at the top levels of Fox Chase, including the bank's President. They are brave enough to put their photos, titles and names out on the website for anyone who wants to reach them. They are available for customers when they need help.
Conclusion: You are in the Driver's Seat
When all is said and done, a good business client-bank relationship is also up to you. In choosing a business bank, as the Allbusiness.com website reminds us, it is important to interview loan officers, business development officers, or banking center managers to see if there is good chemistry. Ask for references.
After you've done your homework and answer all of the basic questions, you can feel secure in beginning to build a long-term, satisfying relationship that will go the distance, for you and for your business.
1. Unknown author, unknown date "Longevity, commitment are key to selecting a commercial bank" on the website www.bizjournals.com
2. Anthony, J. (unknown date) "5 Reasons to find a new bank" on the website http://www.microsoft.com/
3. Unknown author, unknown date "Longevity, commitment are key to selecting a commercial bank" on the website www.bizjournals.com
4. DeFelice, A. (2005) "Give Bank Customers Control" at the website http://www.destinationcrm.com/