Coming off the strengthening observed last year, 2014 sees the Coast banking and finance industry poised for increased growth and effectiveness. While there is certainly a great deal of change continuing to take place in our industry and in our operating environment, the basic job that we do as bankers has not and will not change; one of serving our clients in meeting and exceeding their expectations the business of helping others, said BancorpSouth Coast Division president Jim Ray.
Ray cited heightened regulations and compliance, changing technologies, evolving customer expectations, demographic changes and governmental impact as just some of the challenges he and other financial services representatives have been facing.
The challenge, however, remains how those seeking capital and materials for their business, especially small business, will fare amid these changing times. Coast financial institutions as well as bankers at the personal level look to add increased ease of access to capital and materials.
Like many other Coast banks, BancorpSouth provides customers an array of payment solutions and channels to conduct their financial business. This mission remains the same, added Ray of his experience with Bancorp South, but the means by which this is accomplished is evolving.
The methods and technologies we and our industry colleagues use have been changing and will continue to do so during 2014 and beyond, Ray said. Banks, just as other businesses, have access to insightful data and analytics that enable us to better understand customer needs and desires in order to design more compelling offers and value propositions, he said.
As the technology behind it keeps improving, the market share for digital and mobile banking options, including a mobile wallet, have begun to come to the forefront and have already seen wide implementation not just on the Coast but the nation as a whole. But bank branches have not yet been rendered obsolete.
They continue to be at the center of our product/service delivery system, as both consumers and business owners continue to value a personal relationship and local decision making that is made possible through one-on-one type interaction, Ray said.
And Ray is not the only banking leader who still sees the relevance of that face-to-face relationship.
What I see from the retail perspective is consumer and small business lending has been up here in South Mississippi for the past yearfor 2013, said Wells Fargo consumer banking leader Kelvin Hay. What we found is that people are coming in; they are sitting down and talking with our bankers, and we are finding ways to help them succeed financially whether it be to consolidate debt, lower interest rates, or lower payments, and mainly to increase cash flow.
Lending, Hay added, has doubled in long units and long volumes from 2012 to the present and is expected to continue for 2014. Wells Fargo, to its credit, is an SBA preferred lender in all 50 states and has been the top lender by dollar volume of the SBAs 7(a) loans for five years running. What we do is anytime a customer comes in and sits down to talk with our bankers, we go through a full financial needs assessment so we can fully understand a customers individual financial situation, said Wells Fargo business banking manager Fred Osing. Ultimately, we try to help people whether it is to save money or to make money.
These interactions, especially in cases of small business lending, are often credit-based. Some people use credit in order to grow their businesses; they go out and buy equipment, and we look for ways to help them do that, Osing added. We can help not only the customers but help our community as well.
In viewing the trends on the Gulf Coast in context of the national economy, Osing described it as flat aside from a few upticks from last year. Osing cited a growing amount of lending to the medical industry through their practice finance specialty lending group for equipment in particular, which he speculated to be related to the recent implementation of health care reform. However, he saw it as an effort by the practices who like other businesses aim to increase efficiency and save money.
We have seen more and more happening with folks that contract with some of the large industrial plants in the area, Osing said. There are more goods behind hauled on more trucks being financed by folks, and I think that trend will continue to grow as manufacturing in the United States increases.
We are looking at more opportunities every day, and that is what is driving our success moving into 2014.