According to research conducted for the Canadian Bankers Association (CBA), 78 per cent of more than two million small and medium-sized Canadian business owners have positive relationships with their main financial institution.
That’s no surprise to Michelle Flynn, manager, Commercial Banking, Calgary at Canadian Western Bank (CWB).
“I work hard to build strong relationships with my clients,” says Ms. Flynn. “When I call, I don’t want the client to immediately think it’s bad news; I want them to know that I’m calling to provide an even higher level of service.”
Equally important, she adds, is that her clients feel comfortable to call her for a consultation, regardless of the subject.
With CWB’s focus on businesses with lending requirements of $1 million to $50 million, getting to her know her clients is part of the process of building long-term relationships.
The CBA says businesses tend to be loyal: half of the respondents in its research had been with their main financial institution for more than 10 years.
For Ms. Flynn, openness and honesty are the foundations of a good relationship between a business banker and her client.
“If I think there’s an obstacle with what a borrower is proposing, I want to let them know right away,” she says. “A quick ‘no’ is far better than a prolonged ‘maybe’ for business clients.”
Conversely, it’s important for clients to be frank with their bankers, particular on issues that could have a negative impact on the client’s business.
“Withholding information or waiting until the last minute to disclose it leaves a banker with limited options,” she explains.
Ms. Flynn also believes that business clients need to know that their banker is accessible.
“At CWB, we don’t have voicemail, so when my clients call, they will get through to me directly most of the time, and if not me, then another real person. My role is to be there to answer questions that my clients may have, whether it be a simple transfer request or to explore future lending opportunities. I am not hiding behind voicemail,” she says.
Personalized service is another important aspect of business banking, says Ms. Flynn. “CWB’s parameters allow me, as a lender, to think outside the box and to structure the deal in a way that best suits the borrower. There’s nothing ‘cookie cutter’ about our lending practices.”
An important factor in that approach is market knowledge. With a focus on Western Canada and its head office in Edmonton, CWB believes it knows the regional economy as well as any competitor and better than most, says Ms. Flynn.
“It’s what helps differentiate us and strengthens our relationships with Western Canadian clients,” she says.
When I call, I don’t want the client to immediately think it’s bad news; I want them to know that I’m calling to provide an even higher level of service.” Michelle Flynn, Canadian Western Bank