Cultivating a Relationship with a Banker

1. Learn about the importance of cultivating a relationship with a banker.

2. Understand the elements of the CAMPARI approach to evaluating a loan.

Relationships with Bank and Bankers

One often hears the following standard complaint of small businesses: bankers lend money only

to those businesses that do not need the money. The inverse of this complaint from the bank’s

standpoint might be that small businesses request money only when they are least likely to be

able to repay it. The conflict between small businesses and bankers may stem from a

misunderstanding of the respective roles of both groups. At face value, it might appear—

particularly to small businesses—that bankers are investing in their companies.

Under normal conditions, bankers are extremely risk averse. This means they are not investors

anticipating a substantial return predicated on the risks associated with a particular business.

Bankers lend money with the clear expectation that they will be repaid both principal and

interest. It is in the interest of both parties to transcend these two conflicting perceptions of the

role of bankers in the life of a small business. The key way is for the small business owner to try

to foster improved communications with a banker. This communication promoted by the small

business owner should become the basis of a solid working relationship with the bank. Most

often, this means developing a personal relationship with the loan officer of the bank, which is

sometimes a problematic proposition. Bank loan officers are often moved to different branches,

or they may change jobs and work for different banks. It should be the responsibility of the small

business owner to maintain frequent contact with whoever is representing the bank. This should

involve more than just providing quarterly statements. It should include face-to-face discussions

and even asking the officer to tour a business’s facilities. The point is to personalize the working

relationship between the two parties. “Ideally, it’s a human relationship as well as a business

relationship,” says Bill Byne, an entrepreneur and author of Habits of Wealth. [1]

Although bankers and loan officers will rely heavily on data related to the creditworthiness of a

small business, they will also consider the trustworthiness and integrity of the business owner.

This intangible sense that a business owner is a worthy credit risk may play a determinant role

in whether a loan is approved with the extension of a credit line. This notion of integrity has to

be built over time. It is predicated on projecting an image that you can be counted on to honor

what you say, know the right thing to do to make the business a success, and be able to execute

the correct decisions.

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