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Technology, Business, and the Return to Relationship Banking

James Walter, CEO of Finagraph, wrote an excellent article this week for the ABA Banking Journal about how technology can be the driving force in reviving the old tradition of relationship banking.

Walter notes that prior to the financial crisis, small business owners ranked their banker third on the list of most trusted advisors. Today, bankers rank number seven. Clearly SMB owners do not feel that their needs are being served, and according to Walter, more than one third of SMB owners are now seeking out banking service providers. Besides a desire for technology that suits their needs, SMB owners are looking for a banker that understands their business. From the article:

“Business owners came to feel that bankers didn’t understand their businesses. Salespeople are not a replacement to trained career bankers with a solid education in the art of cultivating lasting business relationships. Business owners want a banker who understands the difference between different types of businesses, and one who can speak fluently about the different factors influencing the bottom line.”

While pushing for technology-based solutions and a more personal banking relationship may seem counterintuitive, Walter explains that bankers should be using technology to personally advise SMB customers:

“A relationship banker should be educated on a variety of internal product partners to provide best practices and solutions for the client. For example, if a borrower is prone to seasonal changes in sales, inventory, etc.—the banker could employ financial intelligence tools to pinpoint when these shifts occur, preparing the business for revenue changes ahead.”

By using technology to advise and enhance relationships with SMB customers, bankers can look forward to attracting new SMB clients and once again be considered trusted advisors.

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