The valued handshake Featured

1:16pm EDT September 20, 2006
Corporations need corporation-sized financial institutions that provide an extensive array of products and services. But corporate executives need individual-sized relationships with bankers that know them and care about them and their companies.

“It’s hard to place a value on a handshake and a banker looking you in the eye and telling you he is there for you,” says John Beaty, vice president and relationship manager for Wells Fargo’s Houston Business Banking Group. “But the ability to have these types of interactions with a local banker can go a long way.”

Smart Business discussed with Beaty the benefits of having a banker who is a relationship manager that ensures executives and their companies receive the most from their financial institution.

Why is a bank’s approach to commercial banking important?
A bank’s approach to commercial banking is significant because this philosophy determines how a bank will interact with businesses and support its community. A bank that has a relationship approach with its commercial clients will focus on sustainable, long-term gains and mutually beneficial opportunities for both parties. Local offices of the bank will want to be known as respected financial institutions. This type of commercial banking strategy will lead to the active support of the local community. This creates a better environment for existing businesses and for economic development, which benefits both the companies and the bank.

How does a relationship focus affect the business banking experience?
Knowing your customers, understanding their businesses, and delivering superior results are the key ingredients to a successful business relationship. To achieve these goals, company executives and bank relationship managers need to have a personal relationship that goes beyond the numbers on a spreadsheet. Business bankers should truly work to understand clients’ needs and to provide the financial tools and solutions that will assist them. This type of collaboration and understanding creates a mutually beneficial relationship for the client and the bank.

How does having a specific contact person improve commercial banking?
Large financial organizations have many invaluable financial resources for businesses. However, the size and breadth of these institutions can make them difficult to navigate without the assistance of a relationship manager.

A relationship manager acts as a single point of contact that can orchestrate the interaction between the client and the bank. In this type of situation, clients can know that with a single call they can reach a banker who knows them, understands them, and cares about them. This single point of contact can ensure that clients receive the appropriate information and the highest level of service.

How can working with a commercial banker with industry expertise benefit a company?
A business banker with industry expertise can add value by bringing an understanding of the specific financial and legal opportunities and challenges of an industry. Working with a financial institution that has relationship managers with a diverse mix of industry experience can be very beneficial to business clients. Through internal partnerships, relationship managers can draw on financial expertise in nearly any field.

How can a relationship manager assist with growing a business?
Banks and relationship managers have a vested interest in their clients. When their clients succeed, banks succeed. Company executives and relationship managers that have open, honest communication can help with solving problems and improving operations. With their financial expertise, relationship managers may come up with ideas that could help businesses to reduce costs, improve cash flow, and ultimately allow the business to grow at a faster, more efficient pace. Business bankers also advise companies on how to most effectively manage their assets and their capital. This helps businesses to have the resources available when they want to take advantage of opportunities for growth.

How can a business banker help a company prepare for the future?
Relationship managers are always looking at their clients’ financial trends, as well as local and national economic trends. This examination provides commercial bankers with data that can be used to forecast sales, predict interest rates, and prepare for future economic trends. Also, relationship managers that understand business clients’ history can use this knowledge to help them determine possible future outcomes.

What is the key to a successful commercial banking relationship?
You get back what you put into a relationship. Commercial bankers should work to foster excellent relationships with their clients, and companies should collaborate with their bankers in developing their businesses. This investment between individual businesses and bankers leads to financially and personally rewarding experiences for both parties.

JOHN BEATY is a vice president and relationship manager for Wells Fargo Bank’s Houston Business Banking Group. Reach him at (713) 209-6616 or