Jay Pelham believes that the delivery of banking services to professionals will evolve into two distinct categories of providers in the near future. “There will be boutique-type providers distinguished by a reliance on higher service levels but with limited locations,” said Pelham, who is executive vice president, managing director of private banking for Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust. “These service levels will be possible due to specialized knowledge, customized products and flexibility in delivery of services.”
At the other end of the spectrum are larger financial institutions characterized by a wide network of service locations, lower pricing as a result of economies of scale, and clearly defined “off the shelf” product offerings. “The larger providers may maintain specialty units that cater to the professional markets,” Pelham said. “However, they will need to function within the framework of a big company.”
Pelham also anticipates a “leveling of the playing field” in terms of technology-based services for professional clients as the cost of implementation continues to decline for smaller companies at a more rapid rate than large ones. “In some cases, a small bank with an outsourced provider for electronic banking services may actually be able to introduce a service more rapidly as there is not an overhead factor associated with increasing the ‘back room’ to support that service,” Pelham said.
For some attorneys, accountants and other professional firms (such as those with international offices), a large bank provider may be a necessity, Pelham added. Other firms may choose to split the relationship to benefit from both types of providers, such as utilizing a large bank to send international wires, and a boutique provider for other day-to-day issues.
When considering a prospective banker, Pelham suggests asking the following questions:
Pelham adds that one of the biggest mistakes law firms make when dealing with their bankers is not having open and ongoing communications. “If you are a borrowing client, be sure to keep your banker informed of developments – both good and bad – in your business, including new hires and new offices,” he said.
Professionals also need to understand the bank’s processes, deadlines and other requirements. “Borrowing clients need to provide financial statements on a regular basis,” Pelham said. “Also, the Federal Reserve will not send wires after a certain time of day, and access to a bank vault may be restricted to certain times. “In many cases, these processes can result in limits on how transactions can be accomplished.”
As for what makes a bank of any size successful in serving attorneys and other professionals, Pelham says the answer is simple. “It’s the people,” he said. “The bank’s staff needs to understand the client base, be involved in their organizations, and be passionate about helping the customer. As long as the bank has the right people with the right mindset, a financial institution can be successful regardless of size, technology, or products.”
Jay Pelham, CFP®, is Executive Vice President and Managing Director of Private Banking for Gibraltar Private Bank & Trust in Coral Gables. He joined Gibraltar in 2008 following a distinguished 20-year career in commercial and private banking, working for SunTrust and BankUnited, where he created a successful private banking division. At Gibraltar, his duties include managing the day-to-day activities of all eight offices, and overseeing approximately $1 billion in deposits.
South Florida Legal Guide 2012 Financial Edition