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How to take advantage of your banking partner

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Is your bank helping you make money?

Optimism is on the rise among business owners. This is the first year coming out of a down cycle in the economy and businesses are ready to grow. They are looking to expand operations, hire new talent and purchase new equipment. But they are also searching for new strategies, financing options and ideas for better market penetration. In today’s economy, one of the best partners a business can have is their banker. Ask yourself if your banker is:

  • bringing more to the table than monthly reports or the weekly “how’s it going” call
  • strategizing with business owners on how to expand operations, create more efficiencies and generate more revenue
  • understanding every aspect of a business, from cash flow to risk management and payroll to IT services.

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Here are a few areas bankers can help businesses strategically grow and profit in today’s economy.

How Does Your Cash Flow?

Most business owners talk about the importance of cash flow, but not many go deep into the process and determine how to make it better. Businesses need to ask questions such as: How many days does it take to collect on receivables? How long are you paying on collectables? Are you getting discounts for paying early?

A lot of companies are operating inefficiently.  They are duplicating internal steps or making extra steps to receive money. It costs $2 to $5 to mail a check, whereas sending an Automated Clearing House (ACH) payment costs less than $1. Businesses need to review how much time it takes to print, stuff and mail a check versus using a card or ACH payment.

By working closely with a banker, businesses can gain cash flow relief and create better efficiencies in their operations. Bankers also can help business owners create a profitable and logical cash flow system.

Risk Management and Efficiency

Risk management is exactly what it sounds like. Anything businesses can do to manage risk will ultimately benefit their bottom line. This includes having dual controls with employees, doing regular inventory checks, having different people sign off on checks and having a process to detect and deter internal and external fraud. So much risk can be diverted simply by paying attention to the small, everyday details.

Risk efficiency is something bankers also should discuss with businesses as it relates to items such as outsourcing payroll or return collections. Often times there are functions that businesses can outsource to save time and money. One of the main things to be outsourced is payroll. A payroll provider can help save a company time and money. They may also accept tax liability so the employer isn’t responsible for tax penalties.

For companies with large receivables, it may be more efficient to have a lockbox or outsourced collection system. Bankers can greatly reduce time and efforts for clients that have high receivables. Another area to outsource is IT. Businesses can outsource their IT needs to a third-party group in order to save time, headaches and money.

Creating Operational Efficiencies

Bankers understand cash and business cycles. They can help a business create operational efficiencies in several areas, including payments, cash flow cycles, commercial cards, reconciliation and so on.

One example is the process of purchasing equipment. As businesses expand their work, make repairs or replace units, they may find themselves making multiple purchases throughout the year. Rather than go through the process of taking out a separate loan for each investment, companies should map out their anticipated needs for the year and take out a line that will cover all potential investments. Not only will this save time, but it also provides flexibility to buy new or used equipment and to proactively plan for capital expenditures they may want to make during the year.

Purchasing cards are another item to consider from a processing standpoint. Not only does the right program provide valuable rewards, but it also cuts down on check writing and provides increased flexibility in cash flow. Additionally, it creates a more streamlined tracking system for accounting departments. By allowing job numbers to be attached to specific expenses, companies can easily allocate costs to the appropriate projects, which results in more effective planning and budgeting.

By working closely with a banker, businesses truly have the opportunity to expand and grow through creating efficiencies in areas they never knew could be improved. Any operational, cash or risk management improvement will ultimately improve a company’s bottom line and their outlook for future growth opportunities.


Mr. Bibens is a treasury management officer for UMB’s Commercial Deposits department. He is responsible for providing consultative technology and cash flow management solutions to companies and public entities throughout the Greater Missouri area. He joined UMB in 2010 and has 10 years of experience in the financial services industry.



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Community banks are the lifeblood of their communities

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There has been much discussion and debate recently about the role of community banking in America.  In fact, I read with interest a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, “Tally of U.S. Banks Sinks to Record Low,” which compelled me to write this blog post reaffirming our support of these banks.

The article points out that the number of banks has dramatically decreased to 6,891 as of September 30, 2013. The reasons for this decline are varied.

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On one side there are changing demographics, and the challenges smaller, more rural communities face while simultaneously trying to prosper. Not to mention the impact of rapidly changing technology and accelerating costs.

On the other side, persistently low interest rates and a difficult regulatory environment have made the business of banking more challenging. Clearly interest rates will return to a more “normal” level at some point, and our hope is that regulators find proper balance as we move forward.

So, you may be wondering, what does this all mean for the banking industry? Opinions have varied greatly as to whether a reduction in the number of banks is a positive or negative trend. There also have been various viewpoints on the impact it could have for community banks, given the large number represented in the decline. This in particular is the point I would like to address.

UMB has been offering Correspondent Banking services since 1928, and we currently work with more than 1,000 community banks. Because of our relationships and experience in this area, we know firsthand the value they provide and the part they play in not only our industry, but in their communities as well.

We understand the critical banking and financial needs community banks address within their communities, and we are firm in our convictions that the community banking model works. Our company has always been an advocate for community banks that serve their local communities, businesses and citizens, often providing services larger banks are frequently unwilling to extend.

We know that banks are the lifeblood of their communities. As such, having community banks solidly positioned with the services required to fulfill their mission of growing and supporting their communities is crucial to the long-term economic health and vitality of their communities. It is also essential for the future of banking—and we will continue to be here to support community banks in their endeavors.


Mr. deSilva is president and chief operating officer of UMB Financial Corporation. He is also vice chairman of UMB Bank, n.a. Mr. deSilva joined UMB in January 2004. He is primarily responsible for UMB's fee-producing business units and product lines, including Scout Investments; UMB Fund Services, UMB Healthcare Services Payment Solutions, Prairie Capital Management. Additionally, he is responsible for all corporate operations, technology, properties, security and marketing.



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The Five Cs of Credit

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Are you an entrepreneur looking to start up a new boutique or local restaurant? Or are you an owner of an established firm seeking to expand or upgrade? Either way, securing financing for your business is sometimes an overwhelming process.

UMB has a long history of being prudent in our lending. We don’t want to put our customers, or ourselves, at risk, so we follow a sound underwriting process to ensure we are making the best decision for everyone involved.

Here are some common guidelines we use when it comes to the loan process.

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Character

This is the overall impression you make on the banker. Business experience and educational background will be evaluated, along with references and past experience.

Word of Advice: You need a business plan. Be open and honest – you should provide the most accurate and objective information about the business and industry landscape.

Capacity

You will need to detail exactly how you plan to repay the loan. Business cash flow, repayment timing and likelihood of repayment will be considered, as will payment history on your current credit. Financial partners need to have confidence that your business will generate enough cash to operate and sustain the company.

Word of Advice: Prepare to have money set aside for a down payment.  Don’t come to the table empty-handed.

Capital

This is the money you have individually invested in the business and is used to assess your risk should the venture not succeed. It’s important for you to demonstrate a personal financial commitment before seeking third-party funding.

Word of Advice: Financial institutions generally require that at least one-third to one-half of the business be funded with your money.

Collateral

This is where assets you own are pledged to the lender as a secondary source of repayment in case the loan is not repaid. You also may be required to sign a guarantee with the promise to repay the loan if you cannot repay it with the profits from the business.

Word of Advice: Most banks will expect the collateral assessment to be greater than the loan amount.

Conditions

This is the outlined plan for the loan, with details on how it will be used and for what purposes. Current economic and business conditions for all industries, as well as your business’ specific industry, will also be evaluated.

Word of Advice: Have a strong knowledge of industry trends, both nationally and in the local market. Timing can be critical.

You should pick a financial lender that will be your partner, not just your bank. After that, securing a loan to start or grow a business should be a smooth process and you’ll be well on your way to fulfilling your dream!




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Why Accept Credit Cards?

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Consumers are increasingly using credit and debit cards to buy everything from a pack of gum to a new car. Small business owners need to adapt to this trend and accept credit/debit transactions from their customers so they don’t miss out on potential revenue.

The numbers don’t lie. Take a look at this infographic to learn more.

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Why Accept Credit Cards Infographic


Mr. Brown serves as a product sales specialist, supporting sales channel strategy for the business segment in Consumer Banking. He joined UMB in 2010. Brown received a master's degree in business administration from Arizona State University in Tempe, Ariz. and a bachelor's degree in economics from Morehouse College in Atlanta, Ga.



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