While you may not be a fan of the extreme sport of boxing, you surely respect the fighters. Their intensity, perseverance, mental toughness, pure confidence, and sheer will to win is beyond admirable. While we could all apply these formidable characteristic to our business and personal lives for increased success, Community Bankers could especially reap the benefits from a toughened, hard-hitting, never giving up, fight-to-the-end mindset.
The Boxer Banker suits up every morning to enter the banking ring with their mind set on winning. They constantly, and whole heartedly, fight their competition for every last piece of business. The purse is huge; organic growth and increased profitability. But, as with everything in life, it comes at a price. Not only is the Boxer Banker fighting their banking competition, but they are also matched up against an ever changing industry, slow growing economy, changing customer demands, and significantly increased regulations.
Some bankers have already put the gloves on and are realizing huge benefits from their fighter-like attitude. Marvin Cosgray, Managing Director of Private Banking at Georgia Commerce Bank, has experienced tremendous success over the last five years, despite opening his Buckhead based branch in the prime of the stagnant economy and challenging banking atmosphere. New regulations and tighter credit standards have not slowed down Marvin’s team from generating great business, and their numbers prove it. Since opening the branch five years ago, he and his team have booked 2,000 deposit customers totaling $165 million and an impressive $166 million in quality, well performing loans- all in one of the most competitive sub-markets of Atlanta, Georgia.
Mr. Cosgray credits the bank’s organic growth success to his team’s perseverance and go-getter methodology. Every day is an active sales day: making calls, asking for referrals, visiting potential clients. In other words, his team aggressively fights for business, rather than waiting for it to walk through the door. Marvin further explained that the other half to their selling equation, and secret punch in winning over customers, is the bank’s very real personalized service. His team sells value, rather than selling a price, which is crucial today. Bankers can attempt to fight their competition with a number, and they may possibly win. However, if they can sell true value and build relationships established on mutual trust and lasting value, then they will knock the competition out every time. It's simple: today’s bank customer wants to do business, and create relationships, with knowledgeable banking experts that provide top-notch customer service and advice, and they will give a little on the pricing to receive just that. And, tight margins that are clearly in the future don’t cause hesitancy to the Banker Boxer. They are always moving forward.
What about the bankers who are choosing to stay out of the ring? Perhaps the style is too dangerous, too sweaty, and too extreme for them. This breed, also known as Bureaucratic Bankers, rarely thinks like a man fighting to survive. Rather, they often delay action, or wait to get all their political ducks in a row, before taking a shot. Honestly, they can’t be overly faulted for their behavior, as it worked for them for many years before the Great Recession and before the industry began its transformation. Not to mention, some banks simply don’t have a structured sales program, the right culture for growth, or their outdated credit policy is hindering their abilities to deliver loans in a competitive, timely fashion. Still, others have non-value adding processes and under-utilized technology constraining their growth.
The Bureaucratic Banker must be warned, though: Today is the metaphorical last 30 seconds in the match, and the only option is to put in every last ounce of fight. Otherwise, the risk of being acquired, or even worse, becoming a member of the Languishing Mediocre Banking Club, a group of banks that will ultimately be left behind, is very real. Outside of selling hard, definable value, banks can avoid joining the club by finding their most profitable niche and focusing their marketing and sales efforts. Whether it is students, wealthy clientele, high growth small business owners, twenty-somethings starting families and looking for advice on budgeting, or the under-banked, community banks can find real success in focusing on and delivering specialized expertise to niches and segments. The best boxers and bankers, after all, are targeted and calculated with their shots.
For most bankers, it is time to re-invent your sales and delivery models, rehab your bank culture, enhance your customer relevance, do more with fewer resources, and integrate new technologies that your customers demand. But above all, decide for your bank that you are going to FIGHT like there is no tomorrow in building your business- and grow it on a much more profitable basis that ensures continued – and increasing - shareholder support. Put on the gloves and you will simultaneously create a new vision for your bank.