Christopher A. Martin is the president of Northwest Savings Bank’s Southwest Region. Martin, who has 18 years of banking experience, oversees the development and implementation of a strategic plan that addresses the growth and profitability of 28 offices in southwestern Pennsylvania. He coordinates the business development of local retail banking, commercial lending, business services, and investment management and trust personnel.
Q. What role does a bank play in assisting businesses in a down economy?
Well, a relationship bank strives to have an intimate knowledge of its business customers. I think you first have to listen to your customer and gain an intimate understanding of their situation. A down economy can send some customers into a conservative posture while others take an opportunist’s stance. Once understanding is gained, our role is to apply our experience and expertise to their situation and provide resources to additional information and guidance. A bank should be a resource for whichever stance they should choose.
Q. What questions should a business ask its bank to make sure its plan is financially strong?
Most of us want to hear what we want to hear, not what we need to hear. Do the numbers work? Stress test the business plan, and ask how the plan will hold up on the recession end of a business cycle. Ask the tough questions. Ask the banker to evaluate the resume of the top officers of the company, the credentials of the business partners, such as the CPA and attorneys. They should review the plan annually.
Q. How can a business develop a strong relationship with its bank?
Meet regularly. Open up about financial performance as well as balance sheet and income statement factors, succession planning and talent development, competition, etc. Use the bank’s deep network of customers and centers of influence to propel the business in the direction they wish to go. Bankers offer more than loans and deposits; their network is often as valuable as their products.