For decades, the competitive edge of community and regional banks is that these financial institutions (FIs) operate in the same neighborhoods as their clients. For business customers, that’s an important component of choosing a financial service provider that can not only provide the necessary products, but can also lend greater support through tailored advisory services.
Yet businesses are flocking to online banking portals in droves, as more business owners take what little time they have to manage finances in a digital-first way. That may mean community banks need to find other ways to remain relevant.
Or, according to Truist Financial Corporation Head of Industry Consulting Mary-Crawford Taylor, it may mean that community banks have an opportunity to build upon that competitive edge by adding an industry-specific approach to serving their local corporate customers.
In a recent discussion with PYMNTS, Taylor explained why it’s still important for businesses to have access to financial services from providers in their local areas — but when those providers have industry-specific expertise on the companies they serve, that community focus can deliver an even more powerful proposition.
Expanding The Service
An industry-specific approach to business banking has always been the strategy of SunTrust Bank, where Taylor served as head of industry consulting before SunTrust merged with BB&T in late 2019.
But in recent months, Taylor said, it became clear that all businesses, regardless of size, were seeking that similarly tailored service from the FI — beyond its ability to have community expertise.
“To have the local touch, you have more of a generalist approach, and that worked in the past,” she said. “We have found in recent history that clients need more than that. They want advice, they want a partner from their banker. To have a true partner, and to really be able to add value to a diverse set of clients, we wanted to be able to marry the local touch with the expertise.”
This strategy led to the recent expansion of Truist Commercial Community Bank’s industry consulting team. Those industry specialties covered by the bank include commercial services, education, senior care, healthcare, waste and environmental services, building products and more.
While this tactic can elevate the value of the support and guidance that a banking partner can provide to a business client, Taylor also noted that it has a significant impact on the way the bank delivers its products and services in other ways.
The way credit products are created and delivered to the customer is greatly affected by the borrower’s industry-specific needs and circumstances. Bankers “know what the needs are, and how they can structure the credit to align with the strategic initiatives within the industry,” Taylor said.
That local touch to business banking is still an important factor for clients, however. Taylor said that in conjunction with a digital approach to banking, understanding a community’s own needs can further support a company’s demand for a human-centered relationship. Further, there are banking needs that all companies, across every industry, have in common.
Over the past year, businesses have experienced significant change as they pivot their business models. The result was that banks had to pivot their own approach to servicing those customers, Taylor noted, pointing to Truist‘s ramping up of virtual events and digital resources to provide companies with the information they need to weather the storm.
Companies are modernizing a variety of their operations, including B2B payment workflows, and their financial service providers need to evolve to address those changes. Yet just as the human-centric approach to banking is key for business clients, the bank itself can find value in human relationships to support internal transformations and adjust their strategies to strengthen business customer experiences.
“One of the challenges [of an industry-specific approach] is that you must have teammates who want to work together and are willing to have a collaborative relationship,” said Taylor. “We’ve established that it’s table stakes.”