Banking on business

In 1989, Jerry Smith parleyed a successful banking and consulting career into First Business Financial Services, where he serves as CEO.

His niche strategy was to focus on providing a wide range of services to businesses, not retail customers. His three main strategies have been:

  • Stay locally owned. While most banks were branching their locations and taking decision-making out of the local market, Smith saw a real need for a business bank that was locally owned and made decisions locally. He raised capital from the local community and continues to maintain local ownership and retain local ties.


  • Experienced business advisers, not just bankers. Smith developed a concept of a bank with business advisers, believing that businesses and business owners would rather deal with business experts. He has surrounded himself with an experienced management team.


  • Unique approach to customer service. When you walk into a First Business bank, you do not feel like you are walking into a bank. There are no teller lines, just a receptionist who will direct you to an account representative. Smith has modeled the business so that all clients have direct access to the knowledgeable decision-makers — there are no customer service personnel as the first point of contact. First Business also offers a courier deposit service, something few other banks provide.

Smith has also developed a list of more than 40 items, which he calls his statement of beliefs, expressing the company’s policies on treatment of employees and clients. It is a list of items, some very simple, that he requires all his employees to understand and practice.

How to reach: First Business Financial Services,