Relationships should be a priority for business everywhere in the world. AI is beginning to change the way we do business and, in the near future, SME-Bank relationships will be with algorithms as well as with people. You may think that you have the best product or service in the world but if you don’t have good business relationships you may find yourself working hard without making a profit.
Digital disruption, capital controls, tight credit and increased tax compliance means that building a good business relationship with banks, or other financial service providers, should be a key strategy for your business. Banks and people who work in banks, work within organisational structures that are often process driven. In the near future these processes may be driven by AI. Here are some tips to strengthen your relationship with your bank or another financial services provider.
Banks generally adapt slowly to their SME customers. Issues include; lack of communication and contact in the interaction process, lack of knowledge and competence of individual bankers as regards their customers’ specific businesses and centralised and standardised systems that prevail within the banking organisation. Also, the organisational structure influences how individual bankers perceive themselves and their ability to adapt to the needs of SMEs and, often, their hands may be tied when interacting with their SME customers. These issues may hinder your relationship with your bank and affect your bottom-line business.
Once you have found the right bank or banks for your business you will need to start building a rapport. Maintaining and strengthening your relationship with a bank can be hampered by simple things such as relationship manager turnover and new bank compliance regulations.
Taking a pragmatic approach to relationships with your bank is essential. Be ready with proof in writing that your track record with your bank makes you a valuable customer to them. Be aware of trends within banks themselves that make them easier or more difficult to deal with. Many banks start campaigns to target SMEs as a good market segment for their business offering easy terms for doing business with them. Take advantage of this. Also be aware of trends outside of banks.
Don’t forget that you have options. With increased digital disruption and the rise of Fintech there are now, and will be increasingly, more non-bank options to choose from.
As an SME owner you may choose to explore non-bank options for various aspects of your business and start to gradually move some or even a large part of your traditional banking requirements over to Fintech solutions providers. The same relationship process will still apply; finding the right Fintech solutions providers, starting a relationship, strengthening a relationship and maintaining it. You may even be able to play this off against your existing bank, if you are diplomatic.
By clicking on the link to this article and reading it (and please don’t forget to like it!), dear reader, you are giving data to someone, somewhere. The people who own the data own the future. If you have ever tried to get a bank loan online by filling out a short questionnaire, you are dealing with an algorithm not a relationship manager. The future of SME banking relationships will be partly driven by AI.
In order to start a relationship with a bank in the future, you may not need to meet and greet a relationship manager but you will need to make sure that your SME’s data, as well as your own personal data and that of your SME’s staff, are acceptable to a bank. This will be assessed through AI by an algorithm not by human. Preparing to strengthen your relationship with your bank by cleaning up all your data should also make your SME more internally compliant.
If you are reliant on banks at the moment then watch out for developments, they are coming fast. Keep strengthening your relationship with your bank but keep an eye on your SME’s data and your own data too.