According to a recent CNBC article by Louis Hernandez, Jr., community-based financial institutions are best equipped to help small enterprises begin to recover from the recession.
Hernandez, author of the upcoming book "Saving the American Dream: Main Street's Last Stand," writes that community banks represent Main Street. He believes they should be viewed by small business owners as "trusted financial intermediaries that exist to aid them in achieving their own goals … (and) want to help small businesses grow so they can further stimulate their local economy, which in turn drives our national economic growth."
Hernandez cites a study from Raddon Financial Group's National Small Business Research that found only 9 percent of small businesses that primarily used a community bank felt their institution was not making credit available, compared to 27 percent of those using a top-five bank.
The research also revealed that small enterprises are more satisfied with community financial institutions compared to larger banks. Specifically, 45 percent of entrepreneurs said they were pleased with the service from their local community bank, compared to less than one-third (32 percent) of their counterparts using a top-five bank.
Hernandez chalks this up to the fact that community banks like My Bank know their customers and communities well. Such institutions are more equipped to offer personalized business banking options and financial tips relevant to the unique challenges small companies face.
Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA) lists a few other reasons why community banks can be more beneficial for small businesses than their larger counterparts. Specifically, they focus their attention on local families, businesses and farmers, rather than prioritizing large corporations. They also have financial services consultants and community bank officers (CBOs) on-site – a state of affairs that's in direct contrast to larger banks, which typically have CEOs headquartered elsewhere and receive little or no exposure to daily customer dealings.
CBOs are also likely to be more involved in their communities, unlike emotionally and physically detached big-bank CEOs. Indeed, community banks provide the majority of their loans to local neighborhoods where depositors work, live and raise their families, meaning much of their investment goes directly into the local economy. As Hernandez notes, community banks serve a higher percentage of small businesses, and therefore strive to pay more attention to them. When dealing with big banks, small enterprises are a lot more likely to get lost in the shuffle.
Ultimately, ICBA explains, community banks are small businesses in their own right, which means they understand the needs of small enterprise owners and are more able to work to accommodate them.
In remarks to a recent community banking conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke noted that financial institutions with assets below $10 billion have seen their profits rise over the past several quarters, The Associated Press reports. Community banks also saw their capital reserves against future losses increase, partly because it's easier for them to raise capital.
At the same conference, Martin J. Gruenberg, acting chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, noted that community banks' propensity to provide loans in rural communities, inner-city neighborhoods and small towns helps to fill a lending void.
"Given the labor intensive, highly customized nature of many small business loans, it is not clear that large institutions would easily fill this critical need if community banks were not there," Gruenberg said, as quoted by the news source.