According to Brentwood Bank’s Lynne Horensky, more and more small and medium-sized businesses are getting less and less in the way of “full service” from so-called full-service banks.
“Big banks are increasingly more interested in bigger accounts, leaving other businesses to fend for themselves,” Horensky says. “There’s a lot more to full service than there used to be, and the big, impersonal bank model isn’t really conducive to delivering it.”
Smart Business asked Horensky to lay out some of the things a smaller, more customer-focused full-service business bank can offer today’s small and medium-sized business and how to recognize a true full-service business bank offering when you find it.
How has the meaning of ‘full service’ changed in banking?
It used to be that full service was synonymous with a comprehensive products and services offering meaning it offered lots of accounts, lots of branch offices, lots of ATMs. These things still have their place, but for many types of businesses, these are neither the necessity nor the end-all they used to be. Today, technology has brought big bank capabilities to the smaller institutions, and that’s helped level the competitive playing field. It’s also allowed smaller, more specialized business banks to take advantage of the bigger banks’ primary weakness, and put high levels of service back into the full-service business banking equation.
Unfortunately, most banks that call themselves full service do so based on an overused and outdated notion of what that term means, without acknowledging that its meaning has continued to evolve. For the business banking customer, there’s simply a lot more to what a full-service bank can and should offer than there used to be.
In what ways will a business benefit from this expanded notion of full service?
The more specialized your needs (or the more growth and expansion impacts your needs), the more opportunity you have to find a better business banking fit. Generic products and services may be perfectly adequate for generic needs, but in a true full-service environment, you will find the capability and flexibility to address very unique needs, as well. Helping you deal with unique operating circumstances or growth-related issues should be the first priority of any full-service bank offering.
How can you tell the difference between basic service and full service?
A more evolved full-service offering will have specialized niche capabilities and core competencies that are really worth going out of your way to find, if you know where and why to look for them. For instance, an organization that’s committed to providing truly responsive loan servicing can make a huge difference for the business that finds itself in growth and expansion mode. A business loan involves more than the dollar transaction, it involves terms and conditions and servicing after-the-fact. Offering the transactional essentials is one thing. Providing a level of servicing that is locally based, highly personable and extremely user-friendly takes the transactional essentials to the next level. Combine that with flexible, custom-tailored terms and conditions, and you add a whole new dimension to full service. The ability to custom tailor around the unique needs of the business customer may be the true measure of what a real full-service bank can and should be able to offer.
What drives the delivery of full service?
Finding the best combinations of available products and services won’t happen until someone can assess the unique needs of a business. A relationship manager or business solutions specialist is someone who is equipped to drive the process and serve as the point person for analyzing specific growth and problem-solving opportunities.
With owners of small and medium-sized businesses, there is more gray area between business and personal banking needs. These individuals are understandably affected by time poverty and probably need full-service attention more than anyone. The irony is that those who need it most are often the ones who fall through the cracks and benefit the least from the traditional big bank full-service model. If you are looking to put service back into your full-service banking relationship, you should start by finding the relationship manager who will be there to deliver it.
What are other keys to getting more out of a full-service relationship?
Business customers have to get out of the generic products and services mindset. Today, a true full-service bank can find ways to achieve a better fit even to the point of customizing around your needs using products and services as the primary building blocks rather than the end-all solution.
The real key to getting everything you can from a full-service banking relationship is to accept that there are possibilities that may not reveal themselves unless (and until) you are willing to sit down and open yourself up to them. That means taking the time to let someone get to know what your business is all about, who can gain some insight into how the potential benefits might be applied in your situation. You may not feel this is the most urgent thing you have to do, but it may be the most important thing you do.
LYNNE HORENSKY is a business development officer for Brentwood Bank. Reach her at LHorensky@brentwoodbank.com or (412) 409-9100 x284.