Magazine article American Banker

Banks Advised to Cultivate, or Risk Losing, Small Businesses

Magazine article American Banker

Banks Advised to Cultivate, or Risk Losing, Small Businesses

Article excerpt

Steven J. Abercrombie, partner with Seattle-based Business Resource Services Inc., says free punch and cookies are fine ways to stroke customers, but banks had better do more to hold on to the huge small-business market - or risk losing it.

Mr. Abercombie, 46, says even community banks are vulnerable. They, like larger banks, have to learn to open their ears to the small-business operators' concerns, and try to understand how their businesses work.

Mr. Abercrombie has practiced what he preaches. Before joining Business Resource, a bank and business consulting firm, he spent 15 years with Rainier Bank, and then moved on in 1988 to start a community bank in Seattle.

Last week, American Banker reporter Bill Atkinson button-holed him in Washington, D.C., at a small-business conference sponsored by the Consumer Bankers Association.

Q.: By their very nature, aren't smaller banks better at dealing with small businesses than larger banks?

ABERCROMBIE: it's got nothing to do with size; it's got everything to do with people and their ability to change.

I actually find them [community banks] more entrenched in their community social structure and not wanting to change because of the costs.

I find in the rural parts of this country that they sit behind that desk just like dad did and still operate the same way.

Q.: What do you mean by change?

ABERCROMBIE: They need to learn some high-level skills in the area of listening.

The future as I hear it keys around a number of things: better communication, better understanding of our businesses and our industries, and better access to each other.

We have to get people on the same side of the table working together to take on the competition of the Nineties.

Q.: If a smaller bank doesn't change, will the Bank Ones of the world steal their customers? …

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