If you own a small business, choosing the right business banker should be high on your list of important partnerships. Your financial institution can maximize your funds, be a source of future financing (such as loans or lines of credit), provide resources to help you manage your finances better, and help you achieve your overall revenue goals.
The best way to shop around for a financial institution is to interview the business banker you meet at each one — and we mean really interview them like you would a new member of your team. Here’s a list of key areas we recommend you ask about in that interview to find the best financial institution for your business:
1) Does the financial institution align with the values of your business?
Asking about an organization’s values may sound too general, but how the business banker answers can tell you a lot about their company’s focus on serving customers. Is the answer you get authentic and heartfelt, or does it feel scripted?
These questions can get you started:
- How would you describe the values of your financial institution? (Very straightforward!)
- What does your organization do for the community? (Do they support things you support?)
- Who are the leaders of your organization? (Experienced, high-integrity leaders are usually people employees like to talk about!)
- What types of small businesses do you work with? Do they work with other small businesses like yours and know your industry?
2) Do you have confidence in the business banker’s experience? Are they someone you can easily talk to?
Your business banker can get you through the financial lows of running a business and help you make smart choices that bring you closer to your goals. It’s important they have a track record working with small businesses like yours and that you can speak with them honestly. Some subjects we recommend you discuss and look out for:
- Years of experience: How long have they been a business banker?
- Interest in getting to know your business: Are they digging deep and asking why you started your company, who your customers are, what your challenges are and what your vision of success is?
- Contact information: They should give you their direct contact information and be your main point of contact for all questions. A call center is not the partner you need for building a business.
3) What fees does the institution charge?
While a lot of banks and credit unions offer similar business banking products (credit cards, checking and savings accounts, loans, lines of credit), the fees associated with them can vary. Get down to the nitty-gritty and ask about the fees related to the products you might use.
For example, a checking account may be free, but online bill pay may not be. The business banker you interview should be able to clearly outline the institution’s fees. If you have to wade through multiple documents with legal language to understand fees, that’s a red flag.
4) Does the institution offer value-added services?
Ask financial institutions what they offer beyond standard business banking products and services, and think about whether those services are helpful to you.
Elevations’ Business Banking Team offers free workshops and educational seminars for small businesses, sponsorships of business events and referrals to other resources like accountants.
Remember: This is one of the most important interviews you’ll do. When you’re ready, it’s well worth the time to shop around and find the right financial institution to help you build your business.