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Financial ServicesFINALISTAfter more than a decade of practicing law, Theodore “Ted” Koenig wanted a more entrepreneurial role as a career. He saw a market opportunity for an innovative, non-bank lender that was free from regulatory constraints.With his experience and understanding of banking, as well as his relationships with middle market bankers and private equity firms, Koenig established a joint venture asset-based lending finance business.After a successful four years, Koenig decided to leave the company and venture on his own to create something bigger. To Koenig’s surprise and as a testament to his leadership, all eight employees left with him to…
Small Business Administration (SBA) loan programs can fill needs that traditional bank lending does not.“The key is going to a bank that is a preferred lender and has dedicated resources or an SBA specialist who really understands the eligibility requirements and programs,” says Tom Doherty, managing director and head of Business Banking at The PrivateBank.Smart Business spoke with Doherty about how SBA loans can give your business access to vital capital.How does SBA lending benefit businesses?What the SBA offers fits into three categories:• Collateral shortfall — Banks have certain advance rates on the collateral they lend against. If there’s a…
Monday, 01 July 2013 16:14

Personal, local service

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Investing for the future, planning for retirement, saving for college, paying for healthcare needs. How do you get started? What should you invest in? Will you have enough to retire? Where do you begin? FirstMerit Financial Services, Inc. is a full-service investment broker dealer in Ohio and Pennsylvania and most recently in Chicago. FirstMerit Financial Services offers a full range of investment solutions. They’re dedicated to designing the best possible financial plan around your needs. Because when it comes to your financial goals — your goals are their goals. “In these tough economic times, there have been a lot of…
Monday, 26 March 2012 13:31

Doing business in China

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Historically known as a country for low-cost manufacturing and a restricted currency, China now provides a wealth of opportunities for foreign businesses, says Alfred Ho, Vice President and Global Financial Institutions Manager at FirstMerit Bank.However, any business that has ever ventured onto unfamiliar turf understands that turning opportunity into success comes with challenges. Overcoming barriers inherent in such a move requires foresight, planning and, notably, well-informed advisors who already know the terrain.Ho explains that FirstMerit has dedicated itself to helping clients grasp the ins and outs of doing business in China. With an eye to the future, FirstMerit has been…
Thursday, 19 January 2012 09:10

Pain-free payroll

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Business owners have many choices when it comes to how to pay their employees. Some handle the payroll process internally, and spend a great deal of time managing all the paperwork of federal and state taxes, Social Security, Medicare, union dues, 401(k) contributions and more.Some use payroll software, which allows accurate recordkeeping, but often has a long learning curve. Some hire a local accountant, or a professional tax lawyer/CPA.Others outsource these tasks to companies that provide automated payroll services.Smart Business spoke with Jim Geuther, Director of Business Banking at FirstMerit Bank, about what services to expect from payroll providers and…
Tuesday, 20 December 2011 13:55

A 3F rated environment

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You may recall that in the Selective Service’s armed forces draft ratings, 4F meant physically unacceptable for military service. I doubt that I would get much argument with my contention that 2011 is finishing up as a 4F year for the economy and investors! In terms of explaining what has happened, I will cut one 'F' from the list and concentrate on 3F’s: fears, fundamentals and feedback loops.Economic cycles are heavily influenced by business and consumer confidence levels. If my personal situation today is satisfactory and I am confident tomorrow will look pretty much like today, I am more likely…
As more and more businesses enter the global marketplace, a question they all want answered is, “What’s the outlook for foreign exchange rates?” Businesses want to know the direction that the currencies of their trading partners are headed in relation to the U.S. dollar, but no one knows. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan once said, “To my knowledge, no model projecting directional movements in exchange rates is significantly superior to tossing a coin.”“Currency markets are volatile, and they are affected by economic growth expectations and interest rate differentials,” says Don Lloyd, senior vice president, Capital Markets at Associated Bank.…
Tuesday, 29 November 2011 09:50

Volatility everywhere, including the Market Meter

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Volatility has been crazy! The S&P 500 third quarter total return was -13.9% followed by +10.9% for October and now back to declines in November. The Russell 2000 index of smaller stocks returned -21.9% and +15.1% for Oct-Nov. Volatility also reigned in the fundamental world during Q3, as economists cut their +2.5% 2011 U.S. GDP estimates to +1.0% with higher odds of a double-dip recession before reversing to 2H 2011 growth of 2% and higher odds of sustained economic expansion through 2012. One factor in the volatility was the debt ceiling crisis, which was wholly unnecessary but extremely alarming as…
Managing working capital can be vastly complex, but your bank’s treasury management professionals understand those complexities and can work to help you and your business implement effective solutions.Treasury management solutions may help manage corporate cash resources, reduce administrative burdens, speed collections, manage payments, facilitate cash flow, mitigate risks of fraud and make corporate capital work harder, says Jennifer Hall, treasury management specialist at Associated Bank.“Treasury management solutions run the gamut from picking the right deposit products, moving to electronic payments to investing idle balances,” says Hall. “And some of the most crucial tools are those that help protect businesses from…
Most business-to-business payments continue to be made by check, but electronic forms of payment such as ACH and cards are gaining ground. That trend will continue, as companies convert the majority of their business-to-business payments to major suppliers from checks to electronic payments over the next three years, says Jennifer Hall, treasury management services representative at Associated Bank.“Although electronic payments may not fit every business need, they are becoming more attainable for companies of every size,” says Hall.Smart Business spoke with Hall about how to move your business away from paper payments, thereby having more control over your cash flow.What…
When life is busy and business is hectic, you may be tempted to divide and conquer everything, including both your personal finances and your business finances.While it’s natural to want to compartmentalize these things and deal with each decision as strictly a personal one or strictly a business one, doing so may mean missing those strategic opportunities that require a broader view of your comprehensive financial plan, says Doug Myers, senior vice president, private banking group manager at Associated Bank.“As a bank works with corporate executives, principals of closely held companies and professional services firms, they often find that comprehensive…
As more businesses enter the global marketplace, the currency exchange rate is becoming a bigger player in their decision making. Companies want to know where the currency is heading. Many companies rely on their bank for this information, but as former Fed chairman Alan Greenspan once said, “To my knowledge, no model projecting directional movements in exchange rates is significantly superior to tossing a coin.”The currency markets are affected by economic growth expectations and interest rate differentials, and there is no way to predict how exchange rates will react to either of those events, says Don Lloyd, senior vice president,…
Though the trading floor is bustling and intense when the markets are open, the scene in Chopper Trading’s break room is quite the opposite when they close. There, in the 3,000-square-foot spaciousness, you’ll find some of Chopper’s 150 employees lifting weights or winding down with some table tennis or poker. After working hours, they usually go out together, maybe taking advantage of the company’s season tickets to cheer on the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs or Sox.The nature of the business can be stressful enough. CEO Raj Fernando wants to keep the surrounding atmosphere as pleasant as possible to counter that, so…
Most businesses use online banking in some capacity, but not all of those are taking advantage of the tools available.The value of online banking goes deeper than just the convenience of tracking your cash flow. Through online banking, businesses can improve productivity, quicken access to cash, transfer funds between accounts, initiate wire transfers, pay vendors and more, says Roger Schnorr, senior vice president of business banking, Old Second National Bank, Aurora, Ill.“Online banking makes good fiscal sense to any business as there is less time and effort involved in every transaction,” says Schnorr. “It’s safe and simple; in short, it’s…
If you’re in a position to grow your business to the next level and you need working capital to make that happen, you may be worried about your ability to receive credit. But banks today are extending loans and lines of credit to businesses that have a solid track record, a strategic plan in place and a strong relationship with their bank, says Don Pilmer, executive vice president of Old Second National Bank, Aurora, Ill. “What has changed in banking over the years is that many community banks used to be able to do business based on relationship and reputation,”…
You take careful measures to protect your business facility, installing alarms and other security devices to keep the operation safe. But what are you doing about guarding your business against the significant but intangible threat of bank fraud? “Every time you write a check, your information is out there, available for the general public,” says Keith Gottschalk, executive vice president of operations and IT at Old Second National Bank. Counterfeit checks, Automated Clearing House (ACH) fraud and criminal wire activity are hotspots in the bank fraud arena, and every businesses needs to understand them. Economic conditions certainly contribute to an…
Friday, 25 June 2010 20:00

Going all the way

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Winner Financial Services If Tom Ricketts has as much success with the Chicago Cubs as he has had with Incapital Holdings LLC, he’ll go down in history as a truly legendary figure in the Windy City. Ricketts’ family acquired the historic baseball club in 2009 and Ricketts became the Cubs’ chairman. But since 2000, he’s been helping to provide the liquidity necessary to make things happen around the world through his successful investment bank. Incapital has underwritten corporate bonds for well-known issuers such as Bank of America, GE Capital Corp., HSBC Finance, Freddie Mac, Boeing Capital, Caterpillar Financial, Dow Chemical…
Many businesses think of their bank as a place to cash checks and keep their money, but if they take the time to build a relationship, that bank can offer so much more. By creating a relationship, a business will find that its bank can do so much more than offer products that are generally similar across all financial institutions. “There is an ongoing dialogue that is fully appreciated within a financial institution concerning what clients mean to the bank,” says June Courtney, executive vice president of commercial banking, Old Second National Bank. “A bank should do so much more…
Monday, 23 February 2009 19:00

Hidden assets

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A mid a national deceleration in the rate of new commercial loans, your company may need to look to innovative options for obtaining capital. Fortunately, you may already have a virtually untapped class of assets in your reserves: IP. High-profile companies like BCBG Max Azria Group and Betsey Johnson have leveraged their IP to raise tens of millions of dollars. With the right strategy, your company could have the opportunity to do the same. “With real estate values plummeting and advance rates getting tighter on other assets, businesses are looking to find any kind of liquidity,” says William S. Schwartz,…
Monday, 26 January 2009 19:00

Block and tackle

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Kevin Kelly isn’t a know-it-all. It would be easy to assume that Kelly, CEO for senior-level executive search and leadership consulting services firm Heidrick & Struggles International Inc., could tell you some intricate strategy about running just about any business. After all, he spent a good portion of his career as a senior executive overseas, he wrote a book on being a CEO, and he makes a living talking with some of the world’s most important people about who they should hire.Despite all that, Kelly likes to keep things pretty simple. He does-n’t want to hit you too hard with…
Thursday, 25 September 2008 20:00

A never-ending relationship

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The relationship between a borrower and bank does not end with the disbursement of a loan. After funding has been secured, a commercial banking officer works closely with his or her back-room operating unit to make sure loans are processed correctly. “If the loan isn’t being handled properly, there are all kinds of ramifications that will carry through to the financials of a company,” says Carol Malecha, vice president of loan servicing for MB Financial Bank in Chicago. “They could have their loan not accrue correctly, they could be faced with an incorrect payment or they could be reporting incorrectly…
Saturday, 26 July 2008 20:00

Private equity essentials

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There’s money out there waiting for just the right opportunity. Could it find what it’s looking for in your business? “With the slowdown in the market, private equity funds have been holding back slightly, which has them accumulating reserves,” says Philip E. Ruben, a partner in the Chicago law firm of Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC. “But private equity funds must invest to provide the needed returns. If business owners can’t obtain capital for growth, expansion or acquisition through traditional financing, then their first alternative should be seeking out private equity.” Smart Business spoke with Ruben about what types of businesses typically…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Banking on opportunity

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Joe Gaffigan and Chris Randall started MFC Capital Funding in February 2005 with just three employees in one small, temporary office and no revenue. The idea for the business came while the two were waiting in the ornate lobby of a recently opened niche private equity firm. Gaffigan and Randall decided to raise money to start a new finance company focused on providing senior debt to lower-middle-market private equity sponsored portfolio companies. Larger competitors existed and thrived, including GE and Merrill Lynch, but experts said the lower middle market was not a proven market. It was widely thought the companies…
Wednesday, 25 June 2008 20:00

Hitting the road

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FreedomRoads was created in May of 2003 with the knowledge that the RV industry was fragmented. Marcus Lemonis, the company’s chairman, saw that there was a tremendous opportunity to consolidate the top dealers in the top 100 markets. Other key factors included the future rights to acquire Camping World and the overwhelming statistic that 400,000 Americans turn 50 every month. The difficulty in launching this concept was finding, growing and keeping great people. Lemonis knows that the ability to buy the business is not as challenging as keeping the original owners engaged and finding new blood to continue on the…
Wednesday, 26 December 2007 19:00

Treasury management

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Companies want things easier these days. Everybody is under a time crunch, and time, as they say, is money. That includes commercial banking clients, who more often are looking for a bank that can be a one-stop shop for all of their treasury management needs. Those banks that succeed in treasury management are those who can combine technological innovation and expertise with highly personalized service, says Shawn Griffin, senior vice president of MB Financial Bank in Chicago. Banks that give their commercial clients the tools and attention they need and resolve their problems quickly are the ones who will stand…
Sunday, 26 August 2007 20:00

Bank relationships

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Business is more competitive than ever with companies having to re-examine their strategies on an on-going basis. Banks are no exception. According to Tom Panos, president and chief commercial banking officer of MB Financial Bank, banks have had to become more efficient. Excellent relationship managers providing solutions with a wide range of commercial products and services is a must. Smart Business spoke with Panos about the matters a growing company should expect from its bank. How have banks had to adapt to today’s business environment? They’ve had to become more efficient and competitive in the delivery of their products. As…
Monday, 25 June 2007 20:00

Rocking the financial boat

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Larry Taunt, John Kailunas and Brian Yarch had a vision to create a different type of distribution system in the financial services industry. The first degree of separation was with the broker in the independent world. They formed Regal Financial Group LLC to lend support, guidance and leadership between the broker and the individual producing rep or office. Regal provides experienced services with traditional distribution while doubling industry payouts. For example, a typical payout for a Merrill Lynch adviser is 35 percent. Regal offers a minimum of a 75 percent payout and does not have proprietary products. The company was…