Bank Teller Counting Money

How to shop for a business bank

Finally, after what feels like a decade of financial woe, Arizona businesses are on the uptick again.

And not only businesses, it seems, but banks, too.

So, with numerous local, regional and national banks in the area to choose from, how should one best go about choosing a bank for their business in this brave new economic world?

“Choosing a bank is much like choosing a business partner. A good partner should share your core values and offer the resources, expertise and services you need to achieve your long-term financial goals,” says Kenneth Kellaney, senior vice president and senior regional commercial manager at National Bank of Arizona. “A bank should act like customer’s window, in that it shouldn’t be seen, but should provide protection, framework and focus for your financial vision.”

Bill Aust, managing director of The Biltmore Bank of Arizona, agrees and notes that a banking partnership should begin by asking questions (see breakout).

CONVENIENCE MATTERS
“One of the biggest questions we get asked by our potential customers is about our online banking services,” says Aust. “A decade ago, a bank’s location – and distance from the customer – was the key driver in many businesses’ decisions on where to bank. Today, with so many online platforms, some of our best customers are in outlying areas of our state or even beyond.”

According to Aust, online services allow banks to focus beyond their physical location, and conversely allow businesses to look beyond theirs as well.

“Absolutely consider convenience before making a decision. In addition to mobile services, some financial institutions have branches with a personal banker you can work with one-on-one while others only exist online,” says John Medina, senior vice president and division manager at Washington Federal.

TIME MATTERS
Time, in this case, is two-fold.

“Take your time when choosing a banking partner,” says Medina. “Invest the time to find the bank that provides the services that are most important to your business. Whether it is a sweep account to manage cash flow or the ability to send wire transfers from your office, knowing your options and what your bank can provide is important.”
Conversely, running a business is a time-consuming job, so time becomes of the essence eventually.

“It’s important that once you choose a financial institution, you ensure they can help you manage your time and meet the changing needs of your business promptly and regularly. Choosing a single financial services provider to accommodate all your business needs will save you time and money.

A few products and services that some banks offer to help you save you time and help you effectively manage your business include payroll services, merchant services, insurance, treasury management services, foreign exchange services, and business loans and lines of credit,” says Jennifer Anderson, business banking manager for Wells Fargo Arizona.

TRUST MATTERS
Anderson also notes it’s important to choose a bank that can act as a trusted financial advisor to help your business grow and succeed financially.

This is often where your own values – and those of the bank – come into play.

According to Kellaney, one should always weigh five initial core value propositions when considering a banking relationship. They are:
• A 360-degree banking philosophy: Your bank should offer comprehensive financial solutions to meet all of your personal and business banking needs, making your day-to-day banking efficient and effective.
• Perspective: Your bank should share your vision for your future and provide unique financial strategies to help you make it a reality.
• Reserve: Your bank should offer exclusive products and services to you in order to provide flexibility, convenience and a premium return on your funds.
• Collaboration: Your bank should bring value to your relationship and help you network with beneficial contacts.
• Life: Your bank should make managing your finances easy, convenient and rewarding, so that you can spend more time focusing on what’s really important to you.

Also, according to Medina, make sure the bank has sufficient capital to be considered financially sound. You can find information about the health of banks online at www.fdic.gov.

“At the end of the day, a business owner wants a financial institution that can provide the personal service they require,” says Medina. “The right institution understands the local business landscape and adds value to the business as it grows and changes.”

THINGS TO CONSIDER

Here are 20 questions to ask when considering a banking partner, according to experts at The Biltmore Bank of Arizona.

1. What is the bank’s reputation?
2. What are my current and mid-term credit needs?
3. What are my long-term needs?
4. Does the bank offer remote services? If not, wheres the bank located?
5. What have I liked and disliked about my prior banking relationships?
6. Will I need specialized help and attention?
7. Does the bank have customers in my industry? Will they allow me to talk to them?
8. Do I prefer a large or a small bank?
9. How involved do I want my bank to be in my business? Will they be willing to be this involved?
10. Will my bank be willing and able to recommend me for services outside the banking realm?
11. Who will be the key parties at the bank who I will be commonly involved with?
12. Do I believe that my bank will approach my problems as their problems?
13. What do the bank’s most satisfied and least satisfied customers say about them?
14. Does the bank have the necessary technology to meet my needs?
15. Does the bank allow me access to their executive leadership and management as needed?
16. What is the bank’s credit limit?
17. Is the bank financially sound, and how do I determine that?
18. How does the bank charge for the transactions that I will be doing?
19. Do the bank’s values mirror mine and my business’ values?
20. What are the bank’s hours and is there someone to assist me after hours?