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Good Reasons for Dealing with a Community Bank
By Richard B. Lockwood, III
The hundreds of community banks across New England may look as if they haven't changed much in the last 50 years or so. But this is one case when looks can be deceiving. It's certainly true that they remain focused on their primary mission of serving the people of the community. In order to accomplish this goal, many of these smaller banks offer just as sophisticated services as their mega-counterparts. They are also staffed with highly competent, hard working, service-oriented banking professionals, many of whom have come from larger banks.
While these local financial institutions are unswerving in their commitment to serving the needs of individual customers, many of these banks have the characteristics of a commercial bank, offering business checking accounts and commercial real estate loans, as well as engaging in other types of business lending including equipment leasing.
There are good reasons for doing business with a community bank. Here are just a few:
1. Community bankers know the community. Because these professionals are familiar with 'the lay of the land" and the "local players," they can be a valuable resource. They approach projects with a high level of local information and experience, an advantage to a borrower in particular. Most of the time it isn't necessary to educate these bankers to the degree that's required with representatives of the big banks.
2. Community bankers will be around tomorrow. Many business owners and managers complain because their account representatives keep changing at large banks. This often results in spending valuable time bringing the new person up to speed. Community bankers tend to stay in place because one of their major assets is knowing the community.
3. Community banks want your business. This can be nothing less than a very pleasant change! Instead of feeling that the bank is doing you a favor, the community bank sends the message that it actually wants to do business with you and will actually work with you to help accomplish your goals. It may sound a bit old fashioned and out of step with the time. Happily, it is!
4. Community banks can move quickly. To put it another way, there is far less red tape and far fewer hassles at a community bank. Whether you are dealing with the lending officer or the president, you are doing business with the top people. There are no layers upon layers in the approval process. You are actually dealing with the people who are responsible for either making the decisions or recommending them. Saving time can give you a true competitive advantage.
5. A community bank offers greater flexibility. There are certainly projects that fall outside the purview of a particular community bank. Some are larger than others. Some have particular interests. Nevertheless, when customers work with a community bank they discover a genuine desire to help customers and to work with them by taking into account their individual needs.
Why do so many businesses feel at home at a community bank? The people there operate the same way their customers do. It's this atmosphere as much as anything that is so inviting.
Richard B. Lockwood, III, is Executive Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing for Bankers' Bank Northeast, a Connecticut-based financial institution that provides correspondent banking products and services to community banks throughout New England and New York. Bankers' Bank, a member of the FDIC and Federal Reserve System, is headquartered in Glastonbury, Connecticut.