Don't Settle: Is Your Business's Bank Providing Headaches Or Solutions?

Every year, businesses review their vendor relationships and insurance policies, to determine whether they can save a few hundred dollars.

What many businesses don’t recognize is that the right fit with their bank could save them tens of thousands of dollars. Yet, most people rarely review their banking relationship, because it seems too hard to make a switch.

In short, they settle.

I recently helped a new business customer make the switch from a large national bank to State Bank of Cross Plains, and it made me realize that other businesses likely have concerns about changing banks that are borne out of a fear of the unknown.

Let’s examine some of questions this new customer posed in researching their banking options, to shed some light on this process and remove some of the real or perceived obstacles to creating a better banking relationship for your business.

Are All Banks the Same?

Before we dig too deep into this conversation, we should probably explain some basic differences between banks.

There are two major categories of banks:

The names are somewhat descriptive, but a national bank usually has office locations throughout the country, which provides billions of dollars in resources. While national banks likely have local employees working in your neighborhood location, policies are established and decisions are usually made at the national/corporate level, where those local relationships don’t necessarily influence behavior or change minds. For a global company with a need for massive resources and frequent international transactions, a national bank is probably the best fit.

Independent community banks differ in that they have a smaller, regional footprint and a mission of supporting local growth and development. As a $1.3 billion institution, State Bank of Cross Plains has access to ample resources, but our priority is the communities we serve, rather than the overall corporate health of the bank-at-large. Community bankers often have local roots, and policies/decisions are made at the local level. They can create loan programs that meet local needs, like when State Bank of Cross Plains created a short-term loan specifically to help people recover from the widespread flooding in Dane County a couple of years ago. Further, the relationships that community bankers build within their respective areas can impact financing decisions, since the banks present loan requests to local approval boards that are likely familiar with their business and their role in the community.

As I mentioned, this new business customer chose to switch from a large national bank to us, a community bank. Our local focus was part of his decision to make the change. There was some turnover at his previous bank that created a situation where none of his contacts had any longevity or history with his business, forcing him to repeatedly educate his banker about his business and industry. That unfamiliarity, during a time of need, also created some hefty and unnecessary fees.

What Does the Conversation Look Like?

In this example, the relationship started with the customer reaching out and letting us know he was open to learning more about us and what our bank can offer.

From our perspective, it was most important to listen to his frustrations and understand what his business wants and needs from its bank. That is our first level of engagement with a potential customer.

It’s not about us … it’s about you.

The first step should NOT be a hard sell on why our bank is better. The first step should be an open discussion about your business goals and vision for what you want from a banking relationship. It is a patient process that should feel more like a courtship than a transaction.

In the case we have been following, our conversation lasted roughly six months and involved a tour of their facility and multiple phone and face-to-face meetings, in addition to a review of the company's financials. During that process, we slowly introduced solutions to some of their most pressing issues. Beyond deposit accounts and online banking tools, we explored whether our locations were convenient, explained the benefits of our treasury management services, and determined whether SBCP’s private banking and wealth management divisions should be part of his business banking team.

We introduced him to a team assembled specifically for his business, based on his stated objectives. We built trust over time, so he knew what to expect and wouldn't encounter similar issues to the ones he was looking to escape. We listened more than we talked.

Why Did This Customer Choose SBCP?

In this situation, the business owner was determined to switch and was interviewing multiple banks to find the best fit. What made him choose State Bank of Cross Plains?

  • Similar mission and culture.

  • Adequate resources. As the largest community bank in Dane, Rock, and Green counties with assets topping $1 billion, State Bank of Cross Plains has the resources he required paired with the attitude and personality of a community bank.

  • Full-service banking relationship. In addition to traditional banking services, SBCP offers many tools often only available at larger banks, such as treasury management, private banking, wealth management, and robust online/mobile technology.

  • Unique approach to small business customers. In an effort to better accommodate businesses of all sizes, SBCP created a Small Business Division within our Business and Commercial services. With a core value of supporting local growth and development, SBCP recognized that many small businesses take a backseat to the larger business clients at any bank. We rectified that by creating a group of bankers who focus solely on those small-to-medium clients.

  • Ease of transition. Without a doubt, there are some logistical headaches with changing over all your business accounts, perhaps including credit cards and bill pay. We helped with this process as much as possible to ease the transition on their timeline.

The most important thing to remember is that your business banking relationship should go beyond information about rates and fees. It should be about how well we understand your company and ways we can support you through every stage, phase, and cycle of your business life.

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