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Improve your banking relationship

“The time to speak to your bank manager is when you don’t need them, not when you do”.
Colin Mills, Founder, The FD Centre

As banks deal with SMEs in every industry, they are also an excellent source of information and advice about marketing, expansion, fraud prevention, and e-commerce. Some banks take the initiative and offer their customers business ideas and opportunities. So if you don’t have a strong relationship with your bank, you’re missing out in many ways that could help your business to prosper.

In this 2-part article, we will see why you should develop a strong relationship with your bank and how a part-time CFO will strengthen your banking relationship.

Introduction

Very few business owners appreciate the value of having a strong relationship with their bank.

“Many executives still view a bank as a vendor, selling money, rather than a partner, providing ideas and solutions to improve their business,” says Steve Rosvold, Founder and CEO of KRM Business Solutions.¹

A recent survey of UK SMEs found that a staggering 73% have no contact with their bank relationship manager.² . The survey commissioned by cloud services provider BCSG, found that few SMEs had personal contact with their banks either face to face or via digital channels. Forty-one percent never visited a bank branch.

Too often business owners leave getting acquainted with their bank manager until their finances are in such a mess the situation is desperate. That is the worse time to approach a bank. For as Bob Hope once joked, a bank is a place that will lend you money if you can prove that you don’t need it.

Why you should develop a strong relationship with your bank

Having a borrowing history and a solid relationship with your bank will make it easier for you to get credit.

It’s important to educate the bank on your business, your strategy and your financials so that they are fully aware of your business and the vision you have for it, says banking expert, Peter Black of Snowball Consulting.³

“You need to have a good relationship with your bank,” says Black. “If you treat the bank as a commodity and don’t tell them anything, then when you need them most, they may not be there.”

Banks need to know:

  • Who your customers are
  • Who your vendors are
  • What is going on in your industry.

For that to happen, you need to establish regular communication with your bank manager.

“Tell the bank the good and the bad news in equal measure, as and when it occurs,” recommends Black. “If you have a new contract or a good story, tell the bank about it. Many don’t do this.” There’s more to it than regular phone calls, however. You also need to demonstrate that you have a coherent strategy and follow it, says Black. That will help to establish your credibility too.

“Continually changing the strategy or appearing to move from one to another does not give the bank confidence,” says Black. “The worst situation to be in is one where the bank does not even understand your strategy.”

Make sure the forecasts you provide are realistic and credible, recommends Black. “The bank will build up a history of how accurate the forecasts are that a business provides. No forecast can ever be totally accurate, but the banks see no end of forecasts showing a massive increase in profits and cash just to underpin the latest request.”

  • Let your banker know about regulatory changes that could have an impact on your company’s growth opportunities.
  • Share your company’s long-term strategy with the bank. Your bank may be able to provide additional resources to help you achieve your goals.
  • Schedule regular meetings with your bank throughout the year so that he or she gets an accurate picture of your business. It will also make it more likely the bank will respond faster when needs or opportunities occur.

The stronger your relationship is with your bank, the better they will be able to understand your business when you come to them for advice and solutions to help it grow.

Banks know things don’t always go as planned. They want to be comfortable that they understand your ability to deal with these situations and make good decisions to improve, building a track record with them based on trust, sharing information and debate. It’s astonishing how many business owners don’t invest in building a track record and strong relationship with their bank.

If you don’t have a good relationship with your bank manager, you’re missing out on more than a possible future credit facility. You’re missing a valuable free resource for advice and information.

At a recent event focusing on how to build a world-class finance function, CFO Centre Group CEO, Sara Daw, found only four out of 50 business owners who attended considered their bank was a strategic partner to their business. This is far too low. At The CFO Centre, we make building a strong value-adding relationship with your bank a priority.

Your bank can provide a regular evaluation of your business and financial strategy, as well as ideas and solutions to overcome many challenges you might face.

Banks also offer a wide array of services including:

  • Cash management tools
  • Credit card processing
  • Online and mobile banking services

Since banks deal with SMEs in every industry, they are also an excellent source of information and advice about marketing, expansion, fraud prevention, and e-commerce.

They can walk you through your balance sheet and explain how they perceive your finances and business. They can also learn more about where and when you’re likely to need the money to grow the business.

Giving information and asking for advice helps to build trust between you and your bank manager. Gradually, you learn to trust their advice and they begin to trust in your ability to repay your loans.

Banks hate surprises so if your business is encountering problems, it’s important to let your bank manager know as soon as possible. If you know that you’re likely to miss payments or be late in paying vendors, let your bank manager know in advance so they can assess the situation and provide you with options.

This will also demonstrate to your bank manager that you can manage the business and also be trusted to inform the bank before the problem gets worse. Your bank manager might even be able to extend your line of credit or temporarily waive your fees.

You can increase your chances of getting a loan or credit extension by demonstrating your ability to repay, whether it is a short-term overdraft or a longer term loan. The bank will expect to see the proof so you’ll need to provide the following documents:

  • Your track record
  • Your previous results
  • A business plan (which needs to cover how the company started, your products/services; the management of the business and its plans for the future; market research undertaken to support assumptions and forecasts; and your financial requirements)
  • Your last audited accounts
  • Current and up-to-date management accounts Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable lists A budget for the current/next trading year
  • A cash flow forecast

Follow us for part II of this article and discover how a how a part-time CFO will strengthen your banking relationship.

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1 ‘Why Your Company Needs a Good Banking Relationship’, Rosvold, Steve, KRM Business Solutions, http://businessfinancialconsulting.com, Feb 26, 2014
2 ‘73% of UK SMEs have no contact with their bank relationship manager’, BCSG, www.bcsg.comSep 17, 2015
3 ‘How to get the most out of your banking relationship’, Black, Peter, Forum of Private Business, www.fpb.org

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