A Good Relationship with your Banker is Good Business

By Betty Uribe, Ed.D.

July/August 2014

Many business owners don’t think to communicate with their bank on regular basis, which means missing out on a valuable, free resource. Think of your banker for ideas, solutions for efficiency and a regular evaluation of your business and financial strategy. To take advantage of you banker’s true role as a consultant, you must start by forming and maintaining a strong relationship. At the heart of this relationship should be trust and communication.

Finding the Right Banker. You may already know and work with a banker you like and trust. That’s great – just review the other tips below to ensure you are getting the most out of that relationship. If you don’t have that relationship already, take the time to find the bank and banker who will work best for you. Below are some tips to guide you through the process:

  • Referrals. A great way to start your selection process is to ask fellow small business owners about their banking relationship. Which bank do they use? What has been their experience? Would they recommend their banker? Friends and colleagues are a great place to start.
  • Small Business Focus. Ask questions about the scope and type of work done on behalf of your bank for small businesses. What type of clients do they have? What types of products and services do they offer to small businesses? What financial and banking challenges do they see small businesses facing and how do they help small businesses address these issues.
  • Industry & Geography. Look for a banker who understands your industry and the geographic region of your business. It’s important that your banker has a firm handle on the business and financial environment related to your industry and geography.

Introduce Yourself & Your Business. The first step in using your banker as an adviser is allowing time for him or her to get to know you and your business. Even if you’re a long-time customer, invite your banker to your office or place of operation for a meeting.

While it’s important for the bank to learn about your operations, over time, it’s necessary for you to return the favor. A good relationship banker will introduce you to managers and key decision-makers in the bank but if the introductions aren’t offered, take the initiative and ask for a meeting. The more people you know at the bank, the more likely your company will become a household name. You’ll get to know who makes the decisions and how they are made.

Use Your Bank For Regular Counsel. Like your lawyer or accountant, use your banker as a true consultant. Once you’ve established a relationship and your banker understands your business, ask him or her to review your business plan. It is one of the best ways to utilize your bank’s resources.

Taking Advantage of Products & Services. At least once a year, you should sit down with your banker to review the products you’re using. Perhaps you’re paying fees for a product you rarely use or technology has advanced and greater efficiency is available. A relationship review with your banker can help you tackle ways to save money and time.

Banking is About More Than Credit. Don’t lose site of the fact that banks offer more than credit and loan options. Banks can help you with services to manage your funds and information to help you grow your business. Beyond a checking account, your banker should be able to offer other cash management tools, online and mobile banking services, credit card processing, payroll management and other services. Also, many banks now offer online tools and resources for your business beyond banking. These include tips and expert advice on everything from marketing and human resources to social media, fraud prevention and eCommerce.

Ongoing Evaluation. Be sure you and your banker are both clear on your financial goals. Evaluate these at least a few times a year with formal meetings – either with in-person or phone conversations. Email is convenient, but a personal connection helps build a strong long-term connection. Most importantly, these check-ins provide a great opportunity to assess your needs and how these needs may have changed, then make any necessary adjustments.

The right banking relationship can not only make your life easier, it can also help you effectively manage and grow your business. It’s essential to find the right banker for your company. Then take the initiative to leverage and foster the relationship to get the most out of it.

Betty Uribe, Ed.D., is an Executive Vice President of California Bank & Trust, which has launched a financing initiative aimed at minority and women-owned businesses in California called TEAM (Tools, Education, Access and Mentoring). For more information, please visit http://www.calbanktrust.com/team. You can also follow CB&T on Twitter: @calbanktrust or ‘like’ them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/calbanktrust