Local bankers explore what's ahead for North Bay businesses – North Bay Business Journal


Brian Kilkenny: Through the pandemic, we saw a rise in people starting their own small businesses. Many of the new businesses were people privatizing what they were already doing as an employee.

Examples are individuals who had worked in the construction trade for a larger company striking out on their own, or someone from the professional services sector (lawyer, accountant, investment advisor, etc.) leaving a larger firm and hanging their own shingle.

If we see downward movement in the economy, I think we will see some decrease in that as people will be more apt to stick with the security of the job they have while the economy settles. That being said, the North Bay is largely comprised of small businesses, and it’s part of our rich history. So, we anticipate and hope to see more and more businesses begin and thrive

Alison Martin: There is not one particular industry per se, but we are seeing a steady stream of loan applications despite the economic uncertainty.

Sunil Pandya: North Bay companies are increasingly looking for not only financing but financial expertise in specific industries, including agriculture, technology, healthcare, sustainability, and investor real estate.

Cody Radelfinger: The segment of our business that serves startups and entrepreneurs tends to see new growers producing eggs and/or vegetables and using farmers markets for direct-to-consumer sales.

Brandy Lee Seppi: We are seeing applications from all business sectors, as every company has their own circumstances and character traits. Bottom line: we are open for business to help all business sectors grow and succeed.

Nikki Sloan: There is potential for interest in long-term fixed-rate financing from commercial real estate and business owners in order to take advantage of lower interest rates and avoid further rate hikes expected in 2023. Overall, we remain focused on executing on our relationship banking model by providing exceptional service to our current and prospective customers across various industries.

Paul Yeomans: We’re seeing interest in SBA lending from across all industries. The organic food and craft beverage industry in Sonoma County is still active, along with construction and residential lending.

If digital banking is here to stay, will this lead to more branch closures?

Jeff Clark: Live Oak Bank has only one branch, our headquarters in Wilmington, North Carolina. We have been operating like this since 2008, and it works well. I believe branches do serve several purposes, but digital banking does render some branch services obsolete.

Brian Kilkenny: Digital banking is certainly a major focus of the current and future state of banking. We are, and have been, investing considerable resources to build, maintain, and optimize our numerous digital offerings for our members. That being said, there’s a significant and important segment of our communities who want and need a physical branch, and it’s important to us that they’re not forced into a banking experience they’re not comfortable with. So, we don’t anticipate closing branches in the near future and, in fact, see expanding our branch network as more likely.

Alison Martin: At U.S. Bank, we’ve taken a “digital + human approach,” which means we’ve invested in digital capabilities and paired that with access to our 2,000-plus branch network and the bankers who work out of them and continue to play a vital role in serving our customers.

Sunil Pandya: Customers are increasingly using digital channels and transacting less often in branch.

One short-term goal that many North Bay middle market companies are considering, or implementing, is business automation. Many companies are investing in technology to mitigate the impacts of labor shortages. Some factors to weigh when automating and streamlining operations include:

Consider upgrading ERP or inventory management systems to provide the automation you need today and in the future. As companies grow, often systems lag behind, which requires more human capital to get the job done.

Analysis of companies’ treasury management services can also help improve cash flow and save on labor costs by optimizing digital payments and streamlining account receivables.

Brandy Lee Seppi: This answer will depend on the make-up of each bank’s client base and profit-to-service culture. At Summit, we have five branches, all in Sonoma County, and do not anticipate any branch closures. We find that many business owners, nonprofits, and people not comfortable doing banking online, typically want to know the people that guard their money. Even if they don’t need daily assistance – they find comfort in knowing a local person is available to help them, should they need it.


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