On a recent flight, the gentleman next to me shared a banking story that made my day.
When the dinner trays arrived, Jim and I put our books and headsets away and began chatting. I was heading home, and Jim was on his way to a board meeting. I found out that he had retired a few years ago and mostly plays golf these days. But to keep mentally engaged, he also sits on a few boards and helps out a friend by playing "part-time CFO" for his growing small-business.
After learning I was in banking, I could see the wheels in his head begin turning. He soon started peppering me with pretty insightful questions about the state of banking today.
When I mentioned a certain bank in his neck of the woods, he leaned forward and said, "You know, I really like those guys." Truth be told, that comment took me by surprise.
In recent years, this particular bank's reputation has not been great. It dawned on me that I didn't think I had ever heard someone say anything nice about it. Granted, most of the conversations I’ve had about that bank have been with other bankers who seldom have anything nice to say about the competition.
I quizzed Jim about his fondness for that bank, and he told me about the situation leading up to it. While helping put his friend's company's finances in order, he found that the company had four different loans and lines of credit with another big bank. They were for different terms and different rates and pretty confusing, even to Jim.
He accompanied his friend to their bank three separate times to attempt to combine the loans and simplify matters. Jim looked at me and said, "I think I know a little about financial statements. This company is solid, with good cash flow, and very low risk." He said that in each instance the folks at the local branches recognized what he wanted to do, said it made sense, but had to "get approval from the higher ups" to get it done.
Four months later, they were still waiting on approval. Jim said, "It's the darnedest thing. My friend's company is doing great and considering expansion. We're telling the bank we want to restructure our accounts — but, hey, we want to stay with them. And we're apparently a nuisance. I wondered if they truly couldn't get approval or just didn't want to bother with us."
He smiled and said, "And then on one of the days I happened to be in the office, Mary comes walking in." Jim continued, "I mean…she just walked in and said hello. She told us she was an officer with 'XYZ Bank' and wanted to introduce herself and her bank. She said if there was ever anything her bank could do to help them, she'd make it her personal responsibility to get it done."
"Well, grab a cup of coffee, and let me tell you what we need," Jim told her.
I was initially a little surprised by how surprised Jim was that a banker would do that. He seemed genuinely amazed that a banker was hustling for business, and he smiled ear-to-ear as he told the story.
Within 60 days of that visit, the company had moved its entire banking relationship to Mary's bank. My favorite comment of Jim's was, "And you know, the rate we got wasn't really all that better than the ones we had before. It actually may have cost us a few bucks to switch. And our new branch is about a mile farther away. But at least Mary's bank seems to actually want our business."