st small business owners, the idea of firing their banker has probably never occurred to them. Most of us would like to view our banker as one of the family. In the world of SBA loans and working capital financing, the average business owner is happy to have one less decision to make, so thoughts of “when to fire your banker” rarely become a high priority.
Banks are just not what they used to be (as most of us have by now realized). In a manner similar to many automobile manufacturers that are now a tarnished and shriveled version of what they once were, it seems like almost overnight most banks have lost our confidence. In this shifting reality, business owners are now forced to adapt quickly to a changing environment for small business loans. Candidly speaking, even if their commercial banker is their best friend, small business owners are increasingly realizing that they must look out for their own best interests because it is unlikely that their business banker is up to the task anymore.
While this assessment might seem cold and harsh, it is nevertheless a candid and practical evaluation of current circumstances. Unwinding a long-term relationship with a particular bank or banker is likely to produce some of the same trauma that occurs when any positive relationship suddenly goes sour. In such circumstances, we should try to move forward after doing the best that we can. As in any change-related decision, the decision-maker (in this case, the business owner agonizing over the firing of their banker) should openly evaluate the probable consequences of not changing at all. If they are being truthful to themselves, most business owners will conclude that they should seek a new banker if keeping the old banker is holding the business back, either by bad advice or inadequate small business loans.
This discussion is in no way meant to suggest that all banks are now bad or that all bankers are now bad. In today’s complex economy, there are still good banks as well as bad banks. Of course there are similarly both bad bankers and good bankers. When their current banking relationship involves a bad banker working for a bad bank, this is probably the worst-case scenario to confront for most commercial borrowers.
We will leave the discussion of good banks and bad banks to another report. The remarks below are intended to highlight a few characteristics which business owners should take under consideration when determining if it might be time to find a new banker.
Overall we would conclude that if the current situation involves a bad bank and a not so bad banker, the most prudent outcome for a business owner is likely to be firing both the bank and the banker. Simply by working for a bad bank, a good banker can often be transformed into a bad banker. Many banks have suddenly stopped making normal business loans and working capital loans, often without even explaining why. This can force an otherwise good banker to rationalize the actions of the bank in a way meant to keep the business owner as a customer while at the same time asking them to accept sub-par business financing. Just say no.
One of the most predictive signs of a bad banker is an increasing frequency of situations in which they are unable to achieve the results which were promised or suggested. This could include lowering a business line of credit after suggesting that it would either be increased or held at the same level. Another common illustration is based on circumstances in which the banker reports that they recommended a commercial loan for approval but the bank loan committee turned it down. Business owners should not be reluctant to hold their banker accountable for producing inadequate results, since results are what count for any business. For prudent commercial borrowers, firing your banker and your bank has become both a more acceptable and necessary solution when your business is not able to obtain sufficient business finance and working capital help.