Be proactive when changing banks

Historically, business professionals were very reluctant to change banks. Especially in a closely-held, smaller business, the attorney, accountant, and banker were key advisors and instrumental in support of the owner. When a new relationship was required, key to the process was the reputation of a prospective financial institution, recommendations from key advisors/centers of influence and the relationship with a specific banker.

Today, changes in the banking landscape and the current economy have complicated the process. While referrals and recommendations from trusted advisors and other business owners remain a key consideration and are a cultural strength of the Milwaukee business community, there are five important factors that should be considered when seeking a new financial institution.

First, take an inventory of the various products and services you are currently using and key areas of support that drive the business on a daily basis. What other services could be bundled together creating critical mass in the relationship, making you a more desirable client (i.e. 401(k), insurance, private or personal banking, and wealth management)? This process will enable the development of a meaningful request for a proposal.

Second, take the time to make an appointment and interview the bank. It is important to understand the institution’s business model, strategy, culture, and expectations for the future. What is the decision-making process? Who will I be dealing with on a daily basis? What is the commitment of the institution to the local marketplace, your business segment, willingness to invest in new technologies?

Next, will the bank and the relationship manager invest the time to understand your business and your long term goals? Banking is about building long-term relationships, not the last transaction. As a trusted advisor the relationship manager needs to be focused on the financial health and well-being of the business. Commitment to this process ensures the bank of creating multiple revenue streams which provide sustainable returns and value to its shareholders.

Next, what are the capabilities of the institution through various products and services? Is the bank easy to do business with? Can I access support 24/7 and do the various capabilities create efficiency and make my business scalable?

Finally, will the new institution work with you assisting in the transition from your current bank? It is essential that the new relationship manager and the support team be engaged from day one to ensure that products and services are deployed correctly and accurately.

Changing banks can be disruptive and costly. Deployment of a transition process after a well-vetted evaluation will result in a beneficial, long-term relationship for both the client and the bank.

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Richard S. Hensley is president of the southeast Wisconsin market for National Exchange Bank & Trust. Since 1983, Dick has been active in the Milwaukee commercial banking market, bringing a passion and strong commitment to closely-held and family-owned business. He is a 1976 graduate of the Kelley School of Business, Indiana University, is married, has four children and three grandchildren. He is active in the community, including: a director of EconomicsWisconsin; former President – St. Luke’s Lutheran Church, Greendale; and Roundtable Chair and member of COSBE – MMAC. National Exchange Bank & Trust is a family-owned financial institution serving business clients across Southeastern Wisconsin. With in excess of $2.5 billion in assets and strong balance sheet, the Bank brings tremendous resources to support the credit, treasury management, investment, and trust requirements.

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