Ameritrust Highlights Credit Access, Low Fees

Ameritrust Co. has revamped its product line to better meet the demands of business owners in its Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan markets.

The Cleveland bank kicked off its program, Smart Banking for Small Business, with radio and print advertising last week. The program promotes such products as easily accessible credit lines and flat-fee checking, along with expanded services, for companies with annual sales of less than $25 million.

More than 600 Business Owners Surveyed

To supplement service at the branch level, the company has put an officer devoted to small business in each of 31 financial service centers. Businessmen can perform transactions at a branch or go to one of the regional centers for guidance from a business banker.

Before revamping its program, Ameritrust interviewed more than 600 business owners, including customers and prospects. The bank then reworked the product line to meet their demands.

"Before, we did not have a coordinated, well-delivered strategy," said Clark Rechkemmer, senior vice president of business banking for the $11 billion-asset company. "In our research we learned the small-business owners want a simplified form of checking and want a straightforward approach. They want the same kind of access to money as they have in their personal accounts and lines of credit."

New products include three flat-fee checking accounts that permit a specified number of monthly transactions. The fee is waived if balances are kept above a certain level.

Ameritrust also offers a business money market savings account, which pays tiered rates of interest. When a customer posts a balance of $50,000, for example, the account pays up to a half a percentage point more than other savings products.

Also in response to the survey, Ameritrust added a business line of credit for short-term financing; it can be accessed by checks, much like personal credit lines. Also available is a business term loan, variable or fixed rate, for purchases of equipment or vehicles or for limited expansion.

Management Training Offered

Along with new products, the bank will provide more educational and informational services to customers. Mr. Rechkemmer said Ameritrust will sponsor management seminars and provide custom audio cassettes on topics such as getting a loan, management through changing business cycles, and marketing. The cassettes will be available on loan from the financial service centers or by mail.

Mr. Rechkemmer said the bank has set its sights on some 100,000 small businesses in northern Ohio alone. The bank's research shows that they want "convenience, quality service, and knowledgeable bankers," he said. "We're giving them access to a good cross-section of seasoned bankers and providing extra value."

Ameritrust also installed a 24-hour service for telephone assistance, and it created private teller windows for business transactions. Small businesses have access to most standard business products, such as credit cards, night depository, and wire transfers.

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