Insightful Discussions
Sep 23, 2016

Business Banking Advice

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As you talk to business owners around the region, what challenges stand out for companies?

DEREK COHEN: Effective credit and treasury solutions are always important topics of discussion for business owners. However, there is one challenge impacting most business owners.  Whether I am talking with a business that specializes in technology, healthcare, manufacturing or retail, they all have an issue finding and retaining top talent.  

Employees are essential to any business’ success, and my team is committed to delivering financial wellness solutions for both our clients and their employees. Helping individuals pursue financial wellness is central to our core beliefs at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.  

By providing financial wellness tools, employers can create a more productive workforce. Workers who are in control of their financial situations are more satisfied, loyal and productive and, over time, this has a positive impact on the business culture and bottom line.

What can business owners do to leverage the local port and grow their business though international markets?

COHEN: We are fortunate to have the Port of Wilmington in our region to help drive economic growth locally. Almost every week I speak with a business owner who is working to grow his or her international presence of products and service.  

As companies look to expand overseas, they encounter unfamiliar cultures and diverse regulatory environments, and need to understand best practices for working in new markets. Some business owners have shied away from the international business, worried the risk was greater than the reward.  

Our organization has more than 100 years of international experience, with offices in 30 countries around the world. In addition, we have 2,500 correspondent banking relationships worldwide. Finding the right financial providers and tools, companies can navigate the international markets while minimizing risk.

Security around financial transactions has become a regular topic in the news. Are there any suggestions you can share that may prevent headaches?

COHEN: Common sense rules are important to remember but the old adage, “Hindsight is 20/20,” plays out over and over again with this topic.  

It’s important to not be complacent with this topic; unfortunately, the pace of new problems related to fraud or scams has become more frequent. Fraudulent activity is a heightened issue for all companies today, and the stakes are high. We are in an environment where companies must have a plan related to risk monitoring. 

A few of the fundamental recommendations I like to discuss with business owners include:  

• Adopt a multilayered risk management approach that focuses on new technologies and industry wide solutions.

• Identify fraudulent transactions before they impact your accounts with tools such as positive pay, paperless payments and automated account activity alerts, whether via voice, email, fax or text messages.  

Regular conversations with a banker or accounting professional can mean time and money well-spent and help avoid costly financial fumbles in the future.


Are there any tips you can provide that may benefit either a new entrepreneur or an established business?

COHEN: Every entrepreneur should look for ways to differentiate themselves from the crowd but there is no need to reinvent the wheel with some of the business basics. 

Whether you’re starting a new business venture or steering an existing company to the next level, selecting a financial provider you can trust for advice is imperative. The amount of free resources available to business’ today - through organizations like the U.S. Small Business Administration and SCORE - is amazing.  

When I spend time with a business, I like to share analytical tools for owners and management teams to learn where their company stands relative to industry peers. This routine can enable a company to make enhanced decisions with powerful analytics.  

By using comparative analysis tools, a business can increase asset productivity, unlock free capital, decrease capital costs, understand debt capacity and identify new growth potential.

You have shared ideas on how to grow and protect a business, but our community has many successful retired business owners. Do you have any thoughts for local business owners who may be considering an exit of their own?

COHEN: Start early. Selling a business should be seamless, but a smooth transition and maximum value only happens with advanced planning.  

Begin by building your team early and include banking, accounting, investment and legal professionals for strategic discussions years before a sale. By starting early, you can address potential tax implications related to a sale.  

Improving accounting routines and management structure takes time to implement. Auditing a business may improve buyer confidence and prevent a surprise. A solid management team ensures long-term success. Leveraging the analytical tools to understand the financial metrics relevant to your industry would drive a higher valuation. This is a complex discussion but I hope it provides a few ideas to help business owners get the conversation started.


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