Lawyers, plumbers, doctors and even the guy who cuts your grass all have one thing in common – all are running small businesses, and that means there are times when they need cash fast, especially in a booming economy.
After years of sluggish growth, the U.S. economy gained momentum in 2017 and new tax breaks are expected to continue the trend this year.
In the highly competitive world of commercial banking, some local lenders are streamlining the loan application process to tap into that segment of the market. But that does not mean bankers have returned to the reckless lending policies that led up to the Great Recession of 2008.
Those days appear to be over, at least for now.
The loans go by a variety of names, including lightning loan and fast loan.
However, don’t confuse them with the television ads of the fast-talking guy with spiky hair hyping ultra-fast mortgages.
Fast loans mean borrowers can use a cellphone or laptop and apply for a loan online wherever they are, whenever they need it, 24/7, without having to visit the bank and fill out paperwork.
An application takes about 15 minutes to complete, and a decision is reached in less than 48 hours.
One area bank, Tompkins VIST Bank, is offering online lightning loans that promise quick turnarounds in days.
CEO Scott Gruber said the program is for small businesses that already have a relationship with the bank. The reason behind the program was the importance of those clients to the bank.
“Small-business owners are the backbone of the local economy and a key customer group,” he said.
“With an improving economy, many are now looking to expand, and we want to make the loan process faster and easier for them.”
YEAR IN DEVELOPMENT
Small-business financing long has been considered the bread and butter of community banks.
Neena Miller, Tompkins VIST executive vice president and chief credit officer, spearheaded the program for the bank, which has a strong presence in Berks County.
She worked with a team for more than a year to develop a product that meets the needs of today’s and future business borrowers.
“This new program is for business owners of all ages, especially those who value its technology and speed,” Miller said.
LESS THAN $500K
Miller said banks are always looking to respond to customers’ changing needs.
“This is just an extension of that,” she said.
The loans can be used for “anything you can think of,” Miller said. “For working capital, financing, equipment purchases, for expansion, for marketing, any need. The bank is targeting loans of less than $500,000.”
She said lightning loans are a relatively new service at her bank but that “other banks are doing it, usually much larger banks.”
‘QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE’
Some bankers prefer a more old-school approach.
“It’s not a service we offer,” said John Hayes of New Tripoli Bank. “We found with products like that, what you’re doing is trading speed for rate.”
But Hayes, who said New Tripoli strives to develop relationships with borrowers, said his bank tries “to move everything through as quickly as possible.”
Jane Amato, vice president of commercial lending at Peoples Security Bank and Trust, said her bank offers accelerated lending for businesses, not necessarily so-called fast loans.
Amato said fast loans are basically “score driven,” based on “just plug-in numbers the business owner gives.” Amato said her bank prefers a more personal approach.
“We are more consultative here,” she said.
Financial records are gathered and analyzed by the bank, and explanations are given to borrowers on how to use debt.
Even so, Amato said, “our turnaround time is pretty fast,” and loans can be approved in a week.
VALUE IN RELATIONSHIPS
Embassy Bank for the Lehigh Valley has a similar philosophy.
“It’s good for the business person and banker to know one another,” said Embassy president, CEO and chairman Dave Lobach. “Sometimes fast and quick is not the best for what is right for the business person long term.”
He said the bank has a lot of highly qualified people who can “sit down and provide their experience and knowhow.”
The bank can fast-track loans, he said, but, “I think the value is in developing long-term relations.”