Matt Mazza

Thursday, 27 February 2003 08:52

Natural selection

How do you select a bank?

Do you select the banker, regardless of the bank with whom he or she is affiliated?

How do you know if your banker is dedicated to your industry?

Here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a bank.

* Look for your bank to be a partner with your organization.

A strong banking relationship requires both sides to recognize the benefits of mutual success. The banker's interest in your company shouldn't end when the loan is repaid. And a strong banking institution often means better pricing and interest rates on certain products.

* Find a banker who wants to be part of the solution, not the problem.

A banker who's part of your organization's solution offers to provide alternative financing solutions. Be willing to listen to different ways to resolve old issues.

For example, the banker may help you decide if you should lease or buy, or consider a conventional loan or bond issue. Confirm that your bank has many product options and that your banker is aware of them so you're in a position to make a well-informed decision.

* Work to understand each other's business.

Once you know why your banker requires quarterly financial statements, providing them may seem a little less burdensome. And wouldn't it be great if your banker really understood your business? He or she needs to stay updated on developments and issues facing your organization and the industry.

* Don't be afraid of questions.

A good banker is always trying to learn more about your business and the issues affecting it. While you may resist these inquiries, the more your banker understands your business, the more solutions he or she can offer.

You should feel comfortable asking questions as well. Your banker might be able to help, but you'll never know without asking.

* Don't pick a know-it-all.

Be wary of someone who always has a quick answer in every situation. It's unlikely you'll find someone who's an expert in every circumstance.

Successful professionals surround themselves with other good professionals. Your banker should work well with the bank's team and not be reluctant to involve other banking specialists to serve your needs.

* Find a bank of action.

Can your banker complete deals for you and deliver the answers you need? Local clients deserve attention from people in the community who know them and their businesses.

* Select a networked individual.

Your banker is a professional and should be networked with other reputable professionals. If you need an accountant or attorney, your banker should be able to refer you to people with whom he or she has worked. If your industry has specific needs for a specialized consultant, your banker should be able to provide referrals.

* Find someone you like.

Working with someone you like can make your life more pleasant. A certain amount of trust is required, and it's much easier to work with someone when you get along.

* Demand accountability.

Accountability goes a long way in building a successful relationship. Your banker should demonstrate that your organization and business are important. If he or she is unresponsive or forgets to call you, seek a change. Matt Mazza is health care relationship manager at Fifth Third Bank. Reach him at (614) 233-4557 or