Building the Perfect Community Bank Partnership

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John Correa October 28, 2019 I’ve been with UMS Banking for more than 13 years, working in the trenches as we build community bank partnerships across the country. The world of credit card processing and merchant services is as competitive as any industry out there, but so is the banking business itself. What I enjoy about my work and our business model is that what we need from our bank partnerships perfectly aligns with what they need from us—helping them grow their deposits and make some honest money.

Let’s face it: in a world of mega-banks, super-regionals, and large, multi-branch banks in every state, it’s hard for a community bank to build its brand. But their larger counterparts have left them a lane. While the larger the bank, the more cookie-cutter it’s solutions, mainly out of risk necessity, community banks can take on the role of problem-solver, of the custom tailor as opposed to off the rack.  

But to do that, to make that lane their own, community banks must operate within a limitation that they can’t provide every product or service and must partner with an array of companies to do so. The average community bank, if it wants to offer a full complement of products and services, must have a mortgage servicer, credit card issuer, merchant services, treasury management, payroll services, investments and insurance brokers, and more. When this array of vendors is dysfunctional, the banker’s world can seem like a patchwork quilt. But when it works, it’s a beautiful thing.

For that partnership equation to really work—and I can only control what I offer on the card processing/merchant front—we must not only be high tech and high touch, but also accountable and responsible. We’ve always been high touch at UMS, but with the Celero era upon us, we’re bringing technology to bear for our merchants that really is peerless. Clover POS, for example, not only processes speedy, frictionless transactions, it also integrates native apps and open source-developed apps that enable many small business owners to make most of their business decisions and many of its functions on a card processing platform. For a person who’s been in the industry since more primitive times, that’s a mind-blowing development.

But perhaps even more important in building that perfect community bank partnership is how you treat your partners and their customers. I was recently thinking about what relationships looked like on paper, when things are going okay, pretty well, or even great. When they’re okay, the bankers think of you as a vendor. When it’s going better, they may even think of you as a partner. But when you earn their love through accountability and responsibility, you become so much a part of their team, you’re able to comfortably relate to everyone on the staff, even going behind the teller line.

For me, being responsible and accountable to my bank partners is about how hard I advocate for them and their customers, and how well I communicate with everyone. It means setting the standard for responsiveness when we receive a referral, and then refusing to take no for an answer as we build that great solution for each merchant. And it’s about keeping that banker in the loop, no matter what happens, good or bad. We have to be empathetic to them and their customers, and we have to honor the fact that they are trusting us with those relationships. The more we arm our bankers with information that we glean during our referral process, merchant onboarding, and then the long cycle of servicing those accounts, the better we can help them protect and grow their deposit portfolios.

We play a special role among that constellation of partners that community bankers must have. Often, we are first privy to customers who may be leaving the bank, when they talk to us about moving a merchant deposit account. We can often find out if there’s a resolution to whatever their issue is, whether it’s pricing, fees, customer service, or something else entirely. If we have established our mode of operation as a partner who is always there, always transparent, and always keeping our partners first in our minds, we can help them retain that relationship and land many more, too.

I’m honored to have this role, making sure bankers are less stressed and have the resources they need to really take care of people. It’s refreshing, too, to know that our world at Celero is going to get even brighter, as we take on more products and services, driven by an ethic of making those products and services easier to use and with one goal in mind: helping small and mid-sized companies grow. That’s a lot to get excited about.