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“We are committed to helping small business owners be positioned for success” #SFSBW2016 Interview: Bank of America

#SFSBW2016 asked our sponsors to share insights, best practices, and examples of how they help small business owners flourish. Today we hear from Emily Shanks, Small Business Western Regional Executive at Bank of America at Bank of America.5.17 BofA Emily Shanks

What is your company’s mission?
To simplify banking and make financial lives better.

How does your organization support and engage the small business community?
With more than three million small business clients, we provide personalized expertise and resources to help small business owners grow and expand their businesses.   We do this through a comprehensive network of small business bankers, client managers and phone, video and chat specialists who provide banking, credit and cash management solutions to meet the unique, and long-term needs of small businesses. We take the time to learn about a small business owner personally, to meet his or her needs today, tomorrow and beyond.

In the greater San Francisco Bay Area, we have over 40 local small business bankers who, last year alone, met face to face with approximately 16,000 small businesses in the market, and provided over $97 million in new credit to help San Francisco small businesses grow, hire and thrive.

What tools and resources has your organization created to help small businesses tap into new opportunities to reach new customers, increase their revenue, and grow their business?
We support small businesses through lending by finding the right financing based on the amount they want to borrow, how they plan to use the funds and the type of collateral they will use to secure the loan.

Bank of America offers a variety of credit solutions to meet the various needs of small businesses – including business credit cards, lines of credit, term loans, commercial real estate loans, equipment financing, vehicle loans and leases, as well as SBA 7(a) and 504 loans.

In 2015, we debuted an unsecured line of credit product to focus on the immediate and sometimes smaller end of the credit spectrum for small business owners. The Unsecured Line of Credit (ULOC) offers quick, flexible financing, facilitating immediate financing in  amounts from $10,000 to $100,000. By using information the bank already maintains for these Small Business clients, the time from entering a ULOC application to receiving a credit decision is typically within two business days — and often within hours.

Recently, personal-finance website CardHub said that “Bank of America continues to be the most small-business-friendly credit card company, as it is the only major issuer to have extended all of the major CARD Act protections that consumers enjoy to its business-branded cards.”

Nationwide, we have hired more than 1,200 Small Business Bankers and Relationship Managers to help bring our small business expertise into local communities and financial centers. In addition, we have nearly 200 Client Managers delivering solutions through a phone-based client management model. Our Practice Solutions channel delivers best-in-class banking, credit and cash capabilities to dentists, veterinarians, physicians and other practice groups. We have doubled the number of dedicated small business online chat and direct phone associates, who work with hundreds of thousands of clients a year. We have more than 2.3 million small businesses that actively use our online and mobile banking services.

Bank of America has also created the Small Business Community (SBC), an online forum in which small business owners can gain knowledge and connections that can provide a competitive advantage in building a successful business. They get expert insights, insider tips and industry knowledge they need to see their businesses grow.

What are the trends you see when you think about the small business marketplace, and how will these trends shape the future of small business?
Seventy percent of San Francisco small business owners believe a minimum wage increase will positively impact the economy, according to the spring 2016 Bank of America Small Business Owner Report, a semi-annual study exploring the concerns, aspirations and perspectives of small business owners in San Francisco and around the country. This is much higher than the national average (47 percent) as well as other metropolitan areas, including New York (65 percent) and Los Angeles (48 percent).

Even though local entrepreneurs express an encouraging outlook as San Francisco prepares for a $15 per hour minimum wage by 2018, 62 percent of San Francisco entrepreneurs say they will need to take financial measures to adjust for an increase. Of those, the most commonly cited action will be to increase the price of products and services (20 percent), followed by reducing operational spending (13 percent). Only 5 percent say they will need to cut staff, which is lower than the national average of 13 percent.

San Francisco small business owners’ revenue expectations are also on the rise. Sixty-five percent expect an increase in revenue this year – an 11 percent jump from last spring, and much higher than the 51 percent who said so nationwide. Plans for business growth have remained steady for San Francisco entrepreneurs. Nearly two-thirds (62 percent) plan to grow their business over the next five years. Even though the nationwide survey saw significant drops in these areas, San Francisco small business owners’ plans for growth include targeting new industries and customers (40 percent) and hiring additional staff (39 percent), 14 percent higher than the national average.

Can you share one brief story about how your company is helping San Francisco businesses thrive?
With over $97 million in new credit extended to San Francisco Bay Area small businesses last year alone, there are countless examples of how we help local companies thrive. It ranges from financing for expansion that has a direct impact on a company’s growth and translates to hiring more people and growing their operations, to providing efficiency and helping with capacity by providing our world class Treasury Management solutions.  One specific recent example was our work with Shiloh Sophia Studios, a local art gallery and educational center specializing in modern and ancient arts by women artists of all ages.  Bank of America helped the owner expand operations by financing a commercial real estate property so she can have one centralized location, allowing her to have a flagship center, offer more classes, diversify her inventory, support the demand and hire more staff.

In addition, to help increase job skills training for people to develop sustainable careers, Bank of America last month provided $1.8 million to 80 nonprofits in the greater Bay Area that provide workforce development programs for underserved populations. According to the nonprofits, these workforce development grants will cumulatively impact nearly 350,000 individuals in the Bay Area, including the retention and creation of over 9,000 jobs.

What words of advice or wisdom would you like to share with small business owners?
In 2016, small business entrepreneurs must navigate a new environment with many uncertainties – from the outcome of the presidential election to new minimum wage requirements to health care costs. Bank of America is committed to helping small business owners be positioned for success. We do this from entrepreneurs just starting out to those on the verge of an IPO.

It’s important to ask the right questions to jump start the process. The best place for small business owners to get started is with people who can offer good advice. Small business owners need a business banker who’s on their side, providing them guidance on how to manage their cash and credit needs and increase the efficiency of their business. We are dedicated to working with small business owners and their employees through phone, video and digital capabilities, including online chat.

Small business owners are the backbone of the economy, and we are focused on every aspect of their needs. We are passionate about serving our clients and dedicated to helping them achieve their goals. We pride ourselves on being the best bank for small business.

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