Vantage West has a dedicated team of business bankers with enhanced training that ensures a better branch experience and an easier commercial account opening process.
Sticking to its credit policy helps the cooperative avoid undue risk, even as competing banks might approve loans that aren’t in the borrower’s or institution’s best interests.
Vantage West Credit Union ($2.1B, Tucson, AZ) has offered commercial loans since 2011 and commercial deposit accounts since 2013. The cooperative’s strategy of building relationships, not products, is paying off. According to the latest data, the credit union held nearly $80 million in commercial deposits as of March 31, 2019.
BUSINESS SHARE ACCOUNT TOTALS AND GROWTH
FOR VANTAGE WEST FCU | DATA AS OF 03.31.19
Over the past several years, Vantage West's business account portfolio continues to grow, as its strategy of building relationships, not products, pays off.
Vantage West spreads the credit union message in the communities it serves through staff involvement in local events and volunteerism.
“Our biggest edge is being a local, not-for-profit credit union,” says Liz Volin, business banking manager for Vantage West. “That’s the message we spread with our business members.”
Although focused primarily on its home market of Tucson in Pima County, AZ, the cooperative just opened two branches in Maricopa County as well. The credit union’s goal is to open 10 branches over a five-year period to better serve the Phoenix, Mesa, Glendale, and Scottsdale markets. According to Vantage West, the expanded footprint plus the following three drivers are crucial to achieving successful commercial business growth.
No. 1. Dedicated, Personal Service For Businesses
Beyond talking up the credit union difference, Vantage West attributes much of its commercial services success to its dedicated team of business bankers.
Each of the three — soon to be four — business bankers offer highly personalized service to the credit union's commercial members. This includes the ability for those members to text, call, or email their business banker directly for help. Local business owners appreciate having a single point of contact.
“This is a big differentiator for us in the market,” Volin says. “If you bank with a large financial institution, you likely don’t even know who your business banker is. Here, you get specialized service.”
No. 2. The Right Products And Services
Volin says having the tools members need to run their businesses is critical to building commercial relationships. To this end, the credit union offers ACH products and remote deposit capture. It also recently upgraded its online banking vendor to offer cash management.
“We try to be as modern as possible with our products,” says Mike Trueba, Vantage West’s vice president of business banking. “We want to make it easier to do business with us.”
The new cash management platform allows businesses to create sub-users and customize their permissions so bookkeepers and accountants can quickly view transactions and keep the business running smoothly and efficiently.
For specialized functions such as merchant services or payroll that aren’t offered in-house, the credit union refers members to select partners it trusts to take good care of them.
For some start-ups or small businesses, the credit union’s in-house ACH services might work well for payroll. However, the credit union wants to offer tools that grow with those businesses when they decide they need a 401(k) program or other services.
“Ultimately, members are going to keep their relationship with us because they know we want to help them,” Volin says.
By offering a full suite of commercial services, the credit union hopes to meet member needs — whatever shape they take.
No. 3. Branch Staff That’s Up to Speed
Vantage West’s team of business bankers knows about the credit union’s suite of business products and services. That should go without saying. But the credit union wants to make sure its front-line employees also are familiar with all the credit union offers.
“If you offer a product, then be sure that, internally, your employees are knowledgeable about that product and are able to assist the member in any way possible,” Trueba advises.
The credit union’s philosophy is clear about the community impact of its commercial services. The core of Vantage West’s mission statement is to help members and communities thrive by offering personal and business financial services. Along with an emphasis on local decision-making and investment, the credit union highlights the fact that members are supporting local businesses.
That philosophy and mission has led to the business banking team spending more time training branch staff on commercial products and processes, such as new account opening. The team is accessible to help the branches, as needed. Each business banker covers four to five branches, making it important to have well-trained branch staff to assist in day-to-day account service so they can bring in new business and build relationships out in the market.
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Lessons From The Past. Plans For The Future.
In terms of growing commercial loans and deposits, the Vantage West team emphasizes the importance of service.
“Be accessible, be helpful,” Trueba says. “Our business members are not just a number at Vantage West. We’re here to help them.”
That service mentality is why investing in people as well as your products is critical.
“They make our department successful,” Volin says of her team at Vantage West.
She also emphasizes the importance of building ongoing relationships that serve the business members’ banking needs — whether those are deposit accounts, loans, or other services.
On the loan side, Trueba advises that credit unions stick to their philosophy and credit policy. Vantage West is competitive, yet it also underwrites loans to minimize risk both for the credit union and to the members who make the cooperative successful.
When it comes to hearing what other banks will offer a specific borrower, Trueba has a few words of wisdom: “That may be fine for them, but not for this credit union.”
Although the credit union is happy with its present, it still has plans for the future that include enhanced commercial services. It plans to launch additional services, such as ACH fraud protection or positive pay, which lets businesses know which checks can clear and which cannot, later this year. The cooperative is also looking at customizing business rewards on its credit cards.
Overall, leaders at Vantage West believe the credit union is well poised to meet its growth goals and have plans to be more aggressive, particularly with owner-occupied commercial loans, in the Tucson and Phoenix areas. “We’ve developed the products that give us the ability to grow and we’re looking forward to serving more local businesses,” says Trueba.