3 Questions Featured

8:00pm EDT April 25, 2010

Christopher A. Martin, who has 18 years of banking experience, oversees the development and implementation of a strategic plan that addresses the growth and profitability of 29 offices in southwestern Pennsylvania. He coordinates the business development of local retail banking, commercial lending, business services, and investment management and trust personnel.

Q. How can a business develop a strong relationship with its bank?

First, communication isn’t just important, it’s vital. Beyond that, banks are typically dialed in to their communities. Businesses serve themselves well when they forge a partnership with their banks in such a way that their banker’s community network opens up to them and their business. This leads to more understanding of decisions being made by community leaders. Bankers have many resources and are glad to share them with their customers.

Q. How can a business work with its bank to become more efficient in this economy?

I recommend getting the bank involved in critical decisions early and often. Today’s most effective bankers are a strategic consultant for their business customers. The bank will have an intimate knowledge of the operations of the business and can link its knowledge to the business’s resources. The banks can also help minimize expenses by providing upfront advice when a business is considering taking on expense by helping answer questions like: Can the expense be supported? How? What’s the return on the expense? Many banks have helped their business customers by providing funds for expansion and by advising them not to incur the expense.

Q. What has changed during the last year in how a business works with its bank?

In our market, there has been more than a fair amount of shuffling bankers. This creates unrest for the business customer. They are now forced to tell their story to another bank, which may have a different philosophy than the previous bank. The new bank may have different appetites for certain industries, causing them to alienate their customers. We are seeing businesses and personal customers take flight to stable and strong banks. Customers are now seeing value in the stabilized relationship manager and the strength of the financial institution.