I find it funny that some business owners may spend more time shopping for a $300 laser printer than they would shopping for a bank. Choosing a bank for your small business should involve more than just opening a new account at your personal bank or picking the nearest branch. You need to understand what services you require, how much they are going to cost you, and how open the bank is to working with small businesses.
Small Business Friendly Banks Actively Make Small Business Loans
One sign that a branch is committed to small businesses is its history of lending money to business owners in the community. If you want to know how your local bank stacks up in the small business lending department, you should definitely check out this handy bank lending grader tool. The tool rates 6,800 banks in the United States based on quarterly FDIC call reports, as well as the total small-business loan balance for each bank divided by its total domestic deposits, and then assigns each bank a grade A through F. To get a good rating (A or B), the bank would need to use at least 10% or more of their deposits to make small business loans. The only thing to keep in mind is that this tool does not offer any insight into how much a bank gives back to a particular local community.
Other Ways to Rate Your Local Bank
What is the bank’s lending authority? What’s the largest loan he or she can approve without checking with higher ups? Relationship managers at community-based banks often have more discretion than those at a unit of a big institution. But, the distinctions between “large” and “small” banks have blurred with the industry’s consolidation. Many community banks have undergone mergers that now allow them to offer a wider range of services.
What is the bank’s underwriting criteria? Smaller, regionally focused banks tend to understand local market conditions more than big national banking institutions. Small, local banks often provide more one-on-one access to a loan officer and put more emphasis on a borrower’s character rather than just applying a credit-score model.
Does the bank make SBA loans or is it a non-SBA lender? Does the bank work with the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) loan system? Federally subsidized loans help protect the bank against default, which makes it easier for banks to lend money- that is, once they get through all the paperwork! SBA loans are available to businesses whose credit histories, cash flows or collateral would be inadequate for them to obtain traditional bank loans, and the SBA typically offers more flexible repayment terms. For a list of SBA preferred lenders near you, you can search their online directory.
What business services does the bank offer? Here is where larger banks may have a leg up on smaller institutions. Ideally, you need to think about the long-term relationship. Consider not just what you need today, but services you may require in 18 to 24 months out. See if your local branch offers added benefits such as online services that help save time and money. These may include sending invoices, collecting payments, payroll and loan applications. Some banks may have requirements in place in order to access these services, such as requiring employees to use direct deposit.
In short, the search for the right business banking services should not be approached in the same way you would a typical supply or product purchase. This is all about finding the institution that is willing to build a relationship with you and your business. That’s a real value that can be leveraged in good times and in bad.