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How to find the right business banker

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Jeff Stone

If you are a multibillion dollar corporation, you have an entire financial department with CPAs to help find the right banking relationship. This article isn’t for you. But, if you are like so many small to medium-sized San Diego businesses, where you, as the owner or CEO, are wearing more hats than you can possibly hang on your hat rack, here are some suggestions:

1. Ask other local business people — word of mouth
If another businessperson you know and trust is pleased with his or her banking relationship, check out that financial institution. It is a great way to narrow the field, at least the place made someone happy.

2. Be sure the person selling you on the institution is the same one who will be servicing you
No matter how knowledgeable and amiable the person selling you is, if that is not the same person you will be dealing with, you really don’t know who your banker is.

3. Look for accessibility
Good bankers don’t necessarily keep “bankers’ hours.” These days, the speed of business seems almost to approach the speed of light, and you might need information or answers fast. Ask your prospective banker how and when you can contact them. If necessary, can you call or email on an evening or weekend? Will they respond quickly when you do contact them?

4. Look for local decision makers
Chances are, at some point you’re going to need a business or commercial property loan, or a line of credit. While people in Virginia, North Carolina, and San Francisco make loan decisions all the time, a locally based institution like North Island Credit Union has a better feel for the local business environment. In our case, your relationship manager is actually a decision maker, with a seat on our loan committee.

5. Look for a financial institution that goes the extra step versus business as usual
Let me give you an example: It was a tax payment day. One of our business representatives, Bob, got a 5 p.m. call from a long-time, trusted business client. She hadn’t made her business’ payment and it was already too late to go online and correct the problem. Bob arranged for a check to be cut, and had someone meet her at the post office. We saved her thousands of dollars in penalties.

Choosing a business banking relationship, like any business decision, can result in making your company more efficient and profitable, or making it harder to do business. If you follow the suggestions above, I think you’ll have a good chance of choosing the right financial institution for your company. For you, they are five suggestions. For The Island, however, they are how we do business and I hope you will look into North Island Credit Union as a possible banking partner.

North Island Credit Union, founded in 1940, today has $1.1 billion in assets, 10 branches countywide and is open to all locally based businesses. Submitted by Jeff Stone, executive vice president and chief credit officer at North Island Credit Union.

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