If you haven’t thought about this before, it may feel unnatural to walk into a bank and interview them for your business. But you wouldn’t hire a new employee without thorough vetting. Why should your bank be any different? After all, they literally hold the pulse of your business (funds) in their hands.
Like any other business relationship, having the right mix of banking services can make or break your cash flow, efficiency, and bottom line. And unlike your personal accounts, your livelihood and that of your employees depends on healthy banking relationships for your business.
- Who is your contact and who can you call?
What happens when you need to make a change to your accounts or have a question? Can you reach an actual person? When you work with a community bank like Standard Bank, your success is as important to us as it is to you. We’re in the same community and have a vested interest in you doing well. That’s why a relationship manager is assigned to every business customer, giving you an actual person to call when you need answers. Whatever your preference, be sure to choose the communication style with which you feel the most comfortable.
- Does the bank offer customized solutions or do you have to fit into what they offer?
When you interview a potential bank, make sure they offer products and services that meet the needs of your business. Smaller businesses, especially, don’t really benefit from one-size-fits-all solutions (which tend to happen when your business becomes a number rather than a priority). Bigger banks usually have a checklist that they cover with each client. It’s the same checklist for everyone. Sometimes it works for your business if you fit into the mold; most of the time it does not. Cookie cutters are great for cookies, but not for running a business. Standard Bank offers an ear before an answer to make sure the business relationship works both ways.
Here is an example. If your business runs on a specific season, you need to have a bank that can be flexible to your peaks and valleys of operation. It’s vital for a bank to really understand the fundamentals of how you operate and how your cash flows. A community bank can do that!
- Discuss the entire relationship up front (and the fine print).
In most cases, you’re not just opening a business checking account. But even if you’re not in the market for additional services (or not interested in switching everything over from another institution), thinking about your entire banking relationship – lending, deposits, and treasury management should all be taken into consideration because you want to look at pricing and optimization as a whole. Don’t be shy: ask about pricing, efficiency and rates; the whole picture matters to your end result. Keep asking questions. And remember, a second opinion can’t hurt.
- Don’t think you are too small or too out-of-the-box to get what you need.
Did you know that regardless of the size of your business, you qualify for all Treasury Management and fraud protection services? Business owners often think they are too small for these services, but it’s often the small businesses that benefit the most from them. Read more about who really benefits from Treasury Management Services here.
Also helpful to keep in mind, as a community bank, even our executive team is accessible to our business customers (of all sizes). We’re that confident in our ability to serve our customers, and we think it’s important to listen at every level of the bank.
- Don’t rate shop.
If you should happen to be looking for a business loan, don’t just shop banks based on rate. Just because a bank seems to have a better rate, additional fees and closing costs are often hidden behind those rates. There’s wisdom in the old adage: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
We’ve seen banks propose a shocking rate to get the loan just to make the income elsewhere in the form of fees on transaction limits and minimum balances for new customers. Again, it’s often written into the fine print, and unless you’re looking – or asking the right questions – you could be in for some expensive surprises down the line.
Additionally, with lending, there are origination fees, documentation fees, legal fees, appraisal costs, etc. Make sure to get the full estimated cost. It could be a great rate, but after totaling up the fees, it may not be worth it. Commercial has far less regulations and standards than mortgage lending, for instance. On the plus side, this allows business loans to be more tailored to a specific business and its unique needs. The down side is there is less consistency in fee structure and can change dramatically depending on the bank. It is a moving target and can get expensive.
Of course, like any leader, you know that each interview will be different. When you walk away from an interview with a qualified candidate for a position on your staff, you know by the feeling they instill in you if they are a good match for your business. Likewise, you should know after you interview a bank if their employees will go the extra mile to make sure they are a good match for you. For your business. For your bottom line.
Standard Bank offers all of our business customers the same promises. Read them and what products and services we offer in our Business Solutions Booklet (PDF).