Manager or Advisor? What a Customer Wants and Needs in a Commercial Relationship Exec

Commercial Relationship Manager. There’s nothing wrong with the job title. In fact, the name itself conveys knowledge, expertise and a certain degree of people skills. But, according to some experts, the term also implies a supervisor-subordinate style relationship between banker and customer – and at C&F Bank, that’s not what we’re aiming for.

We prefer the term “advisor” as opposed to “manager.” From our perspective, this puts customers and their financial concerns and well-being front and center, where they should be. But there’s an even better reason to drill down on what folks need and want in a commercial relationship exec: A 2016 study by J.D. Power, a leading global marketing information services firm, reveals the nation’s big banks are powering ahead on overall customer satisfaction. Meanwhile, midsize banks have declined in this category, while regional banks are at a plateau.

Reports aside – it is just one survey – we are confident C&F can beat its mega-cousins hands down in customer care performance across the board. On the commercial side, though, it doesn’t hurt to pay more attention. Here’s what we know our clients are looking for, and what we are fully prepared to deliver:

We start with knowledge. As managers, we possess in-depth understanding of commercial deal structures and pricing. We know C&F policies inside-out, and we keep up with changes. We keep our licensures and certifications up to date and attend continuing education classes pertinent to the job. We stay abreast of industry news because at some point, a client is sure to have questions about the economy, new products or technology. We also network at professional conferences and summits – a great way to learn what’s happening in the commercial banking world.

As advisors, we remember that customers probably lack familiarity with industry jargon, regulatory complexities and loan execution. We have a dual purpose here: to insure our clients understand the specific transactions under discussion; and to protect the bank by following both inhouse and regulatory protocols. This is a tricky balance. But unlike many fresh-out-of-college novices at numerous megabanks, our commercial relationship advisors bring years of experience to the table.

We are flexible in our roles. As managers, we make sure our clients are qualified for commercial loans and financial services. We collect required documentation and keep on track with communications, meetings and deadlines. We routinely provide progress updates to customers and navigate around stumbling blocks.

Acting as advisors, we have the chance to demonstrate our consultative talents. Here, we ask our clients about the nature of their businesses and conduct research to learn even more about their industries – where it is now, where it may be heading. We ask clients to tell us their goals, hopes and dreams. While our approach is professional, we remain friendly and upbeat. Our listening skills, by the same token, are in full play. We learn a lot when we don’t speak.

We develop relationships. As members of a regional bank team, we would have to function in silos not to forge bonds with our customers. After all, we live in the community, too. We see clients in church, on playgrounds and at parent teacher meetings. We belong to the same Rotary clubs, the Chamber of Commerce. We cheer for the same high school football teams.

As managers this familiarity becomes a great business tool. It frees us up to act as sounding boards for just about any client worry – from too much business debt to what the markets may do tomorrow. Rather than telling customers they don’t meet our loan criteria and leaving it at that, we can help them identify other ways to tackle cash flow headaches.

But when we act as advisors, we ascend to a more personal plane. We meet prospective customers at coffee shops or for lunch to get to know them before we enter a business relationship. We remember customer birthdays, inquire after sick family members or occasionally, simply drop by their places of business to see how things are going.

A C&F commercial relationship advisor tells a story of a young physician who, with his dad’s help, started a small practice. One day, he came to our bank – right off the street – because he needed funds to expand his office. He qualified for a loan, and the advisor and his client built a strong, trustful relationship.

Over the years, this fortunate alliance allowed the doctor to realize his loftiest goals. His practice has grown from a couple cramped rooms to a 24,000 square-foot building. What pleases our advisor most about this decade-long bond? Simply that he had the pleasure of watching his customer earn the rewards of what they worked toward together.

That’s not a manager’s response.


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