Take steps to find a bank that can help your company grow

The banking industry is ever changing. In 2016 alone, banks saw more integrative technology, a changing physical landscape and an increase in mergers and acquisitions.

“As these changes cause customers to re-evaluate their banking relationship, many institutions are also being proactive about customer retention,” says Donna Dolezal, Vice President of Commercial Lending at Northwest Bank.

“As we look into 2017, innovation, product and service improvement and exemplary customer service will continue to be a critical piece for banks and their efforts to retain current customers and remain competitive in their respective markets.”

As your business assesses its own future, it’s important to find a bank that can provide a level of service that meets your own unique needs.

Smart Business spoke with Dolezal about what to consider when assessing the compatibility of potential banking partners.

What signs might indicate it’s time for your business to look for a new bank?
Many issues stem from poor communication. This can be an issue if you’re planning on growth that will require funding to make it work. It’s also a problem if your trusted banker leaves for a new opportunity. No matter the problem, if you’re committed to invest time, money and resources in your growth plan and you’re uncertain as to whether you have the right partnership to meet those needs, it might be time to look for a new bank.

What’s the best approach to take as you explore your banking options?
Take time to think about your trusted advisers. Who are they? Hopefully your accountant and attorney come to mind. Also consider business advisers you work with. You can even speak with employees who deal with banks to provide suggestions for better solutions. They can also make introductions to other banks and bankers.

Don’t forget to consider the banker who calls on you regularly and has expressed interest in your business or introduced you to solutions before your own bank did. You may want to list the products and services you currently use on a spreadsheet.

Add information like rates, fees and terms. When you meet with other banks, add in details for comparison. You may also want to add other suggested services and their cost into the conversation.

What if you have concerns about the transition and process involved in switching banks?
The transition process is a little more complicated than opening a new account. Most clients have multiple services, including deposits, treasury and credit facilities. These services need to be set up and people need to be properly trained. This often requires other bank employees to be involved and committed to the transition.

As you think about the change, refer to your spreadsheet and create a new column of concerns. Have a conversation with your new bank before you transition to share your thoughts. Have employees involved with banking matters at your company identify and share their perspective with you.

Share this feedback with your new bank and work together to create a transition plan. Everything should be addressed so the changeover is as smooth as possible. To that end, consider the personnel involved and the timeline for completion, along with who to contact if something goes wrong. It’s also important to communicate with your existing bank and provide notice that you’re leaving.

What can a company do internally to create a stronger partnership going forward, whether it’s your current bank or an existing bank?
Involve your CFO/controller and employees who interact with the bank regularly. Invite these key individuals to attend meetings as you interview other banks or meet with your current bank. They can aid in the internal due diligence to determine the best fit in a banking relationship.

There are many great banks and bankers out there. But there is always the potential for change. It’s never an easy process to change, especially when it concerns such an important partner in your business as your bank. The long-term goal is to gain a trusted banking adviser who adds value to your company by providing the right solutions.

Insights Banking & Finance is brought to you by Northwest Bank