From the time we are youngsters, looking across the classroom at that special someone, the idea of building a relationship becomes an important part of our lives. As we grow older, we wish we could know what the “other side” might be thinking about our relationship.
The situation is no different as we mature and run a business. It is true that people prefer to do business with people they know and like. And a bad relationship will result in worse than a few tears or a broken heart. But how does one build a solid, lasting relationship with a bank? One of the biggest challenges many businesspeople face is getting to know and trust someone in the financial world. Like any relationship, it must be a two-way street.
“The more familiar your banker is with your company, the more proactively he or she will be able to provide solutions and be there for you when an unforeseen event occurs,” says Mary Patton, a commercial banker with FirstMerit Bank.
Smart Business spoke with Patton about the relationship-building process and how to ensure you’re getting the most out of your banking affiliations.
Who are the key people to know at a bank?
You should know your primary banking officer, who is often referred to as a relationship manager, along with the other key decision-makers at the bank. These may include the credit officer, the commercial banking manager and the bank’s president. Your relationship manager might suggest bringing in other people on the bank’s team, too.
To start a relationship, should I first approach a local lending officer?
You can always begin with the local branch personnel who can refer you to the appropriate individual based upon your needs. Typically, this will be a business banking or commercial banking officer who will be able to meet with you. Remember, relationships are a twoway street. It is always helpful for the banking team to be able to visit your business to fully understand your operation. The more the team knows about what you do and how you do it, the stronger the relationship.
Whom should my business bankers know on my team?
They should know all owners and key decision-makers as well as any key operational employees. This likely will include the chief financial officer, controller and, perhaps, the office manager.
What should I discuss with my local bank manager about our relationship?
It is important that the local branch manager and his or her staff know you and what they can do to effectively meet your day-to-day transaction needs. This may include change orders, special deposit requirements or requests. They want to foster a good relationship, too.
Typically, your relationship manager will provide introductions to specialists who will support your business. These specialists may include people involved with treasury management, foreign exchange, international or merchant services depending on your business needs. Your relationship manager should be viewed as an extension of your team. He or she should be proactive in learning your business and providing unique solutions to help your business succeed. This person is an advocate for you and should provide ongoing value.
Is it OK for me to have relationships at more than one bank?
There are benefits to being with one financial institution. These benefits can include more aggressive pricing, enhanced relationships and efficiencies, since you are only dealing with one institution. However, if your capital needs expand due to growth, there are times in which it would make sense to have multiple banking relationships.
How often can I call a banker before I get annoying?
You should feel comfortable calling your relationship manager as much as you need to. The more they work with you and build the relationship, they will be positioned to bring value-added ideas to your organization.
If I encounter an unforeseen problem in my business, do I contact my banker?
Absolutely, your banker is your advocate, and you should be comfortable with sharing both good and bad news with him or her. By keeping your relationship manager informed, there may be more solutions available to help you get through the difficulties you are experiencing.
MARY PATTON is a commercial banker with FirstMerit Bank. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.