How banking locally benefits the economy, your business and you

Your banker is here to help you … really. Local bankers who have a presence in your market work in close proximity to your business. They understand the local economy and markets, and work to understand you.

“Bank employees are hired to make a difference for your company, not to push products,” says Jeff Hastings, market president at U.S. Bank, Central Ohio. “They’re working to offer ideas that are beneficial to your life and your business.”

A banker can be a business owner’s trusted adviser, forging a close relationship in which advice can be shared on decisions that affect a business owner’s entire life through loan decisions and investment strategies.

“It’s much more than taking deposits,” he says.

Smart Business spoke with Hastings about the benefits of a strong relationship between business owners and bankers.

What should a local business look for when choosing a bank?

One of the most important things is whether the decision-makers are familiar with your local economy and your industry. You should also have quick and easy access to your representatives and the different lines of business they work on for the benefit of your company.

What are some common misconceptions businesses have about banks?

A common misconception is that banks only lend money when companies don’t need it. That’s far from true. Businesses need a strong relationship with their bank, which means facilitating open communication, giving bankers the information they need to address issues, good and bad, in a timely and proactive manner. It really is a bank’s intent to help companies grow in any way.

In some cases, bank loans are perceived as a commodity. But a good banker is more than that. He or she becomes a value-added adviser to the company if there’s solid communication.

What impact does banking have locally?

There may be no other state in the country where banking has a bigger influence on the local economy than Ohio. There are hundreds of community banks and multiple regional banks headquartered in, or that have major presence in, the state, and there’s not an industry they don’t impact.

A healthy banking industry has a dramatic impact on the city of Columbus. During the recession, when the banking industry had problems, there was a negative impact on the nonprofit and arts communities. Since the industry has regained its footing it’s been able to contribute more fully to the art and philanthropic communities.

How can a business benefit from a strong relationship with their local banker?

Working with an institution that’s located near a business means those bankers should have a handle on how the local market is affecting business owners — changes in the Commercial Activity Tax and unique workers’ compensation issues, for example. Bankers also should find ways to make introductions between business owners and service providers, or link suppliers with customers in new markets or industries.

Having access to a local banker generally speeds up decision-making when companies need new lending products or other services. The more local they are, the better handle they have on local companies’ needs.

Also, ‘Made in Ohio’ is an important designation. Whether its B2B or B2C, people in Ohio tend to be loyal to businesses run by people they know and like. It’s a common theme in this state to do business with local businesses, and the loyalty factor has a big impact.

How do businesses and banks work together to improve the local economy?

The banking industry has such a dramatic impact on the economy. It helps people start new businesses, fund new lines of equipment, and provide working capital management, allowing companies to hire new employees and introduce new products.

Central Ohio is a good example of how banks can have a positive affect on an area. For example, the region has had incredible housing growth for 15 years that would not have happened without the local banking community. It’s further evidence that banks within this community are working to do the right things that have a positive impact on the community where we live and work.

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