Community banks looking to attract more small-business customers would be wise to concentrate on doctors and other professionals, according to a survey.

Such people take on more loans and leases and have more credit cards and checking accounts than other small-business owners, according to the poll. It was conducted for American Banker by Financial Institutions Consulting and released this month.

Medical and nonmedical professionals typically get these products from more than one provider. However, 63% of small-business owners in general said they would consider keeping all their business with one company, the survey found.

That could present an opportunity for community banks.

Charles Wendel, president of New York-based Financial Institutions Consulting, said small banks that focus on personal service and offer a complete line of products would appeal especially to doctors.

"Doctors are really bad at taking care of their finances," he said. "Banks need to be able to lend money and offer trust and estate advisory work."

Bankers are taking note of the opportunity.

Sterling National Bank in New York announced last month that it had dedicated two full-time employees to serving doctors, dentists, and other medical professionals. Louis J. Cappelli, president of the $1 billion-asset bank, said it is coordinating its marketing efforts so health-care professionals can turn to one source for all of their financial services needs-from cash management to a mortgage for a second home.

"Other banks will go out and market one product or two products," he said. "We are selling all of the products we have with one searchlight."

Also hoping to bring in more health-care clients is Cole Taylor Bank in Wheeling, Ill.. The $2 billion-asset bank has been catering to the Chicago area's large medical community for about five years.

Chief executive Bruce Taylor said he expects the bank's health-care services group to add 10% more customers over the next year. At least half the bank's professional customers are in health care, he said, and Cole Taylor typically sells them five to 10 products each.

"This is a good growth area for us," Mr. Taylor said.

Mr. Wendel said small bank's ultimate success with health-care clients will depend on perseverance. Many large banks have fallen short at that, he said.

"Big banks do big marketing campaigns, but they don't follow through," he said. "It's all about execution."

Melinda McIntyre agreed. Ms. McIntyre is chief executive officer of $270 million-asset Professional Bancorp in Santa Monica, Calif., which specializes in the health-care industry.

Many small banks give up too soon, she said. It takes time to build a customer base of medical professionals.

"It takes a long time to earn their trust," she said. "But then they're incredibly loyal, and you have a long marketing relationship."

Once a client is on board, referrals-a specialty in health care-come rolling in, Ms. McIntyre said.

"I've been here for 15 years, and I've never made a cold call."

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