Whoever said “two is better than one” was really onto something — especially when discussing Barlow Research’s 2024 Business Banking Conferences. That’s right, I said conferences, plural! This year, Barlow decided to meet bankers where they are, recently bringing financial insights to Columbus, Ohio, and then heading to Charlotte, North Carolina, this fall.

As long-time partners of Barlow, we’ve been to quite a few of Barlow Business Banking Conferences (eight, to be exact), but the gathering in Columbus was far different than the ones we’ve attended in the past. The small, intimate venue offered a space to connect with our clients and prospects in a way that large shows don’t always provide and focused the spotlight on all of the insights Barlow’s researchers and speakers had to share. And, boy, oh boy, a lot was shared! This is what we heard is happening in the world of business banking:

What’s top of mind?

Barlow is the gold standard in business banking research, so when they share insights, we listen. According to their Business Sentiment Tracking Study, among the top concerns for small and middle-market businesses today is the cost of doing business. Another top concern for small and middle-market businesses is the possibility of a prolonged recession.

Additionally, Barlow shared that among small and middle-market businesses, more businesses anticipate falling short of their financial goals rather than exceeding them by the end of the fiscal year. Barlow’s Finding and Retaining Business Deposits 2024 Study revealed that bank failures and rising rates have added to feelings of uncertainty.

As a business banker, these findings should have your mental sirens going off! Bankers are in a unique spot where they have many opportunities to provide value, and one way to do that is to position yourself as a trusted advisor. The quest for better rates may have some businesses shopping around, but as we’ve heard at previous conferences this spring, customers are sticky due to effective engagement. Loyalty comes from the extra effort — and expertise — you and your team provide. Long story short, it’s more important than ever to go the extra mile!

Do you know your client?

In an eye-opening session featuring Cathy Callahan, SVP of Northeast Region at Bank of America, Shaunté Robinson, Midwest Head of Diverse Businesses at JPMorgan Chase, and Megan Seitchik, Middle Market Program Director at Barlow Research, the panel shared some of the interesting criteria that diverse business owners prioritize in financial partnerships. There is no such thing as an “average” client. Typecasting your

prospects into having the same concerns, priorities, or opinions is one way to send them packing.

According to Barlow’s Middle Market Rolling 4th Quarter Data, diverse owners are looking for their bankers to proactively suggest solutions to financial service needs and bring valuable ideas to help them more effectively run their business. We hear this repeatedly, but how do bankers manifest these valuable ideas? (Keep reading; we will answer this question in a few more sentences!)

This session also addressed the question, “What is the most important thing another bank could do to gain your attention?” Among diverse women owners, one of the top answers was “possessing industry knowledge.”

Now, imagine knowing the ins and outs of a client’s industry, being able to share the latest trends, the current conditions of the industry, and the credit and risk level associated with businesses in that industry. It’s this vital knowledge that then leads to conversation and valuable ideas. That is how you position yourself as a trusted advisor. Boom, cue mic drop!

We left Columbus with a better understanding of how the banking landscape continues to evolve, but some truths will never change…

First, You must be human. Small business owners want you not just to come in and try to sell them bank products and services. Rather, they want you to learn about their business and how their industry operates and then connect the dots between their unique pain points and the right financial solutions to solve them.

Second, Relationships are everything. Acting as a caring advisor rather than a salesperson will always get you farther, period. People are drawn to people who they feel understand and relate to them. When you put the “relate” back into banking relationships, your clients are far more likely to see your ongoing value to them and their business.

Finally, Trust the data. Our strong relationship with Barlow is built on the foundation of truth, both in their research and our Industry Intelligence. We are proud to provide our clients valuable data in our Industry Profiles such as Barlow’s bank product usage information and working capital insights. Rest assured that when you’re using Vertical IQ to prepare for a meeting or compile a brief for a client, the information sourced from Barlow (as well as our other unbiased third-party data) reflects countless hours of research and embodies the “gold standard.”

Charlotte, see you soon! If you’ll be attending Barlow’s next Business Banking Conference in the Queen City, let’s grab a coffee.

Ready to take your relationships to the next level? Book a time with us to learn more about why Vertical IQ has the in-depth industry knowledge bankers need.


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