Strong ties that bind Featured

7:00pm EDT November 25, 2008

It used to be that a business owner’s banker was a name and a voice on the other end of the phone line. Sure, you met the banker in person when you first opened the account but, barring any problems, probably never saw the person again.

In today’s commercial banking world, the presence of a strong relationship between client and banker is crucial.

“It’s not simply a matter of lending clients money or paying more interest on their deposits,” says Maury Sanchez, vice president and principal relationship manager with Wells Fargo Bank. “It’s about being there for them and having that one-on-one relationship with all of your customers.”

Smart Business talked to Sanchez about the importance of a good banking relationship.

What is the definition of a good relationship in the commercial banking world?

I think it’s crucial, especially in today’s market, to have a strong relationship with your clients. As a banker you have to understand your customers and their business. You need to understand what their needs are and provide them the proper solutions and products that they can utilize to help their business get ahead. That doesn’t mean just selling them something as a way to get them into the bank, but actual services and products that will help them in their daily activities.

It’s important to provide the proper services and be there for the customers when they have a need, but it’s just as important to understand what that need is. We try to visit our customers at least once a quarter, physically sitting in front of them and letting them know we are there for them. If they have any questions or concerns, they know they can call us any time.

Being in front of your customers these days is critical. With all of the competition vying for your customers you really need to be on top of things and understand your clients’ businesses. I believe a customer really appreciates it when you identify and provide them the proper services they need, especially when they weren’t aware the services were available in the first place. I believe that relationship banking is key to customer retention and loyalty.

Have those needs and services changed over the last 10 years?

I’ve been in banking for eight years and began my career as a business banker. In the past, it was more about bringing in loans and deposits. Today as a relationship manager, I work closely with my clients to find the best products and services for their businesses. With the competition like it is today it is very important to establish a relationship with your customers. It’s not just about tying customers to the bank, but it’s about making sure you’re aware of their needs and finding products and solutions to meet those needs.

So the banking relationship is more one on one today than it was in the past?

When I introduce myself to new customers or prospects, I’m offering them a one-on-one relationship with the person who will be their main contact. I am also providing them the assurance that they can contact me with any questions or concerns they might have. If I don’t have the answers, I will find the answers for them. We have many departments and partners within our organization that specialize in various areas and I can guide the customer in the right direction and make sure they contact the right person to help with their particular issue. That is the best way to resolve any issues or questions the customer might have.

It is especially important in today’s turbulent economy to get out in front of clients and let them know that you are there and that you care about them.

How do you keep each client’s relationship personalized with so many clients?

We are not able to get in front of every client, every month. We go through our portfolio and determine who we haven’t contacted in a while and get with them to see what’s going on. There are also some clients who call me on a daily or weekly basis so I don’t have to initiate a contact. And if I’m out of the office when they call I return their call as soon as I can. My clients know who I am, have my office and cell phone numbers, and they know they can reach me whenever they need me. I am always accessible.

MAURY SANCHEZ is vice president and principal relationship manager with Wells Fargo Bank. Reach him at (713) 209-6676 or Mauricio.A.Sanchez@wellsfargo.com.