Considerations when evaluating your banking relationship

By Scott Swingle
Guest Columnist

Banking options aren’t one-size-fits-all, and neither is your business. Like your business, your banking partner plays a critical role to your success, requiring regular monitoring to ensure it fits your needs now and down the road. A lot can change in a fiscal year so evaluating your relationship annually is smart business.

Your bank can help you manage many business needs – from lending and payroll to reviewing your balance sheets and facilitating payment options – so there is much to consider when determining if the bank still fits your needs. And while digital tools are a key component to evolving your business, studies show the personal relationships between business owners and their bankers are critical to long term success.

Your banking partner can play a critical role to the success of your business. | PHOTO BY SCOTT GRAHAM ON UNSPLASH

To help ensure your banking relationship is delivering on all fronts, there are a few things you want to review as you evaluate options and priorities for the year ahead and beyond.

Do they have the products and services that I need today and tomorrow?

It is important to consider what products and services you need for your business operations today. While you explored these at the start of your relationship, they should be routinely evaluated as business functions and priorities shift, grow and change.

Similarly, it is important to look ahead in your strategic plan. What big changes are in your plan and does your current partner have the products and services to help you deliver them? If you are looking to adapt your payment options, does your bank have the products to facilitate that shift? It is a good practice to share your plan with your banker to help map out what future services you may need.

Do I have adequate access to my banking partner?

Accessibility is key in any good relationship. J.D. Power’s 2020 U.S. Small Business Banking Satisfaction Study found that customer satisfaction is significantly higher when a dedicated account manager is assigned to a business. When evaluating your relationship, consider whether your banking needs will require a personal Relationship Manager (RM) who is easily accessible and knows your business. There may be times when you want a knowledgeable Relationship Manager by your side with background on your specific needs vs. an unfamiliar bank representative.

Do they have extensive knowledge of both my market AND my industry?

Does your partner talk the talk AND talk your trade? It is important to consider the expertise of your banking partner. Ideally, this should encompass knowledge of your market – which provides invaluable insights into what could impact your business or trends your banking partner sees elsewhere in the market – as well as experience within your industry. Experience within your industry will ensure the financing needs you are offered are tailored for the type of business you run. For example, a law office will have extremely different needs than a manufacturer; that deep understanding of your industry should be apparent when discussing your balance sheet with your RM.

Does my partner have a strong referral network?

Get insight into other businesses your RM is working with and the length of their relationships. The longer the relationships, the more confidence you should have that your partner is interested in the long-term financial wellbeing of your business.

You’ll also want to evaluate the bank’s network. Have they been able to make appropriate connections for other services within the company that would benefit you, such as cash or treasury management and wealth management services? Do they have the right leasing options, corporate credit card products, cash logistics and digital payments technology to fit your business’ needs?

Finally, a good partner will have valuable connections in the community that can help you and your business succeed.

Business banking needs are complex, and it is best to be proactive when determining if your partner is still the best match. While there are many ‘intangibles’ that go along with evaluating your bank, it is important to sit down with your RM to plan for the year ahead.

Scott Swingle is the senior vice president, team lead of WSFS Bank’s Southern Group Business Banking Team, covering Sussex/Kent Counties in Delaware and adjoining Counties in Maryland.