The American Banker’s Small Biz Banking Conference [SBB] feels like home away from home for the Vertical IQ team. Each year we have the opportunity to meet with friends, old and new, to unravel the most pressing issues keeping bankers up at night, and use these insights to learn how we can better serve our friends at financial institutions. As we reflect on the wealth of knowledge shared by industry leaders and experts over the past week, several key takeaways emerged, reshaping our perspective on banking relationships and the nuanced needs of small business owners.

Small business owners crave solutions, not just products.

If there was one quote to summarize the essence of the entire conference, it would be the wise words of keynote speaker Ben Walter, CEO of Business Banking at Chase: “Small business is ALWAYS personal. You can automate transactions, not trust. Strive for scale and excellence — having one is crucial, but both is better, and everything eventually disintermediates.”

While bankers often focus on promoting products, small business owners are more interested in comprehensive solutions. To build a successful relationship with small business owners, the emphasis must be on understanding their needs and framing offerings as solutions that enhance their lives. Small business owners are deeply passionate about their ventures, viewing their personal and professional lives as intertwined.

Relationships are not transactions.

Many small business owners are looking for assistance that extends beyond mere banking services. Building relationships with them can open doors to helping with various aspects of their personal and professional lives. These small business owners are not looking for just a banker, but a trusted advisor.

This concept of becoming a trusted advisor is something that’s always been important to us at Vertical IQ. During the conference, our CEO, Bobby Martin presented a session with Martin Wise, CEO of RelPro, on “The Mind of the Small Business Owner.” In the session, they dug into the different traits of small business owners, how to better understand how they think, and therefore how to connect and build trust with them.

By gaining insights into a small business owner’s professional priorities and lived experiences — such as their company’s pivotal “trigger events” and insomnia-inducing pain points — you can begin to identify ways you and your organization can establish and nurture an advisory-caliber relationship that will truly help a business owner succeed.

Thank you to our panelists, Pinnacle Financial Partners’ Courtney Williams-Theis and UMB Bank’s Kevin von Atzigen, for adding their expertise to the Vertical IQ-RelPro session!

Successful small business bankers recognize the importance of cultivating relationships within the bank, too, particularly with wealth management, at-work partners, and payments departments. A holistic approach to relationship-building needs to be at the forefront of bankers’ minds today.

Technology cannote replace trust.

Nick Miceli, Regional President of the Florida Metro Region at TD Bank, emphasized a poignant reminder: Don’t overlook the power of using customer names. It’s a small gesture, but it can make a huge impact! While we can rely on automation to handle transactions, it can’t replace the essential element of humanity. Taking the time to know your customers on a personal level can influence the entire bottom line of your bank.

Other conference gems and interesting stats.

Notable sessions, such as “What it Means to Serve Small Businesses, Now,” led by Ginger Siegel, North America Small Business Lead at Mastercard, provided encouraging insights on the female entrepreneurship front. For instance, data shows that the fastest-growing small businesses are female-owned Latina businesses!

During the conference, American Banker also took the time to shine a spotlight on their just-released ranking of The Most Powerful Women in Credit Unions. Currently, four of the top 10 credit unions are run by women — double the number of female CEOs leading top credit unions last year. All of this foreshadows an exciting future for female leaders in the financial industry as a whole.

As we absorb these key conference insights, it’s clear that successful small business banking is not just about financial transactions; it’s about understanding, connecting, and providing solutions that enhance the lives of passionate small business owners. The Small Biz Banking Conference has ignited a renewed commitment to leading with the customer, not the product, and embracing the messiness and passion that define the small business landscape leading into 2024. Here’s to a future of meaningful relationships and prosperous collaborations in the realm of small business banking!

>> Vertical IQ’s Industry Intelligence equips small business bankers to take personalization to the next level and achieve trusted advisor status with their clients! Click here to contact us and to request a demo.

Image credit: David Buffaloe, Vertical IQ

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