Banking for the Smaller Business

by C. Lawrence “Larry” Thomas

Small businesses are receiving a lot of attention these days, and for good reason. America’s small businesses have created the majority of new jobs over the last decade and, in past downturns, it’s been small business growth that has pulled us out of recession.

South Orange County is no exception. Sensing better times ahead, our local entrepreneurs are investing millions of dollars in their enterprises, and outsiders are focusing on the region’s opportunities in growing numbers.

Providing meaningful banking services to small businesses requires an understanding of the challenges they face, knowledge of the local business environment, and a close working relationship. Those three attributes are the primary reasons small business owners prefer smaller, local banks that are also invested in the local economy.

“When I talk to a new customer, “says Mike Chambers. Senior Vice President, Director of Business Development for Partners Bank, “I tell them that we are a ‘backyard bank’ whose shareholders and directors are primarily from South Orange County. Similarly, our loan approvals are decided by predominately local people.”

In a recent article, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ.com) pointed out that, in selecting a bank, ideally a business would find a banker who will take the time to walk them through how to solve a banking problem, so they can return to running their business. Still, some businesses spend more time shopping for a $300 laser printer than they do shopping for a bank.

To find the right bank a small business should first identify their specific needs. The bank they choose should offer the services necessary for the business to operate efficiently and profitably.

Molding the business’ operations to satisfy the bank’s needs is exactly backwards. That isn’t to say that the bank might offer some suggestions as to how to take better advantage of bank services. In fact, they should. The smaller, local bank is generally better able to customize the relationship to accommodate their customer.

If the need involves a credit facility (such as a line-of-credit, term loan, or commercial real estate loan) it is important to understand the bank’s decision-making process. Smaller local banks have some advantages there too.

For example, at Partners Bank our loan decisions are made by people with local knowledge, right here in South Orange County. So, the loan approval process is more efficient and timely because it is completely local.

Partners Bank is designated as a Preferred Lender in the Small Business Administration’s Preferred Lenders Program and thereby able to offer small businesses with this important solution to their financing needs.

These lending solutions, coupled with a range of deposit and convenience services designed for businesses, make Partners Bank an attractive alternative for local businesses who want to work with a smaller, local bank.

C. Lawrence “Larry” Thomas is Senior Vice President, Regional Banking Manager for South Orange County of Partners Bank of California. The region includes the cities of San Juan Capistrano,
Dana Point and San Clemente. Larry can be reached at (949) 732-4020.

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