BANKS SHOULD BE ALLIES, RESOURCES WHEN NAVIGATING ENTREPRENEURIAL WATERS by Kristine Chung When Christopher Columbus set out to find the New World, his fleet of three ships, instead of just one, greatly improved his chances for success. Like Columbus, today’s inspired entrepreneurs increase their chances for success when they too, bring along three sound ships — their accountant, attorney and business banker — instead of heading out into uncharted waters alone. Of the three, the business banker may be the most important. Like a ship, a bank must be solid, stable and financially seaworthy. But for the owner of a small- to mid-size business, the right bank must be capable of understanding the entrepreneur’s short- and long-term needs. Most importantly, it must be an advisor; an industry expert with in-depth market knowledge and a keen sense of the business’ strategies and goals. In today’s fast-paced business world, it is not enough that a bank merely offer a wide array of products and services. To be effective, a business banker should be able to anticipate its clients’ future financial needs and suggest solutions to help meet those needs. City National Bank is that kind of financial institution. And, with 33 branches located throughout the five-county area of Southern California and $4.7 billion in assets, City National is also uniquely qualified to meet the needs of local entrepreneurs and businesses. For example, the bane of many cyclical businesses is cash flow — or a lack thereof. Seasonal swings in sales can create a never-ending cycle of scrambling for receivables while payables mount-up. However, a solid business bank like City National can provide advanced cash management technology to stop this perpetual cycle and actually enhance the bottom line. How? By giving you control of your cash flow instead of letting your cash flow control you. Relationship managers at City National are adept at providing cash flow solutions that reduce administrative burdens while making capital work harder. Cash management solutions can include services that accelerate deposits, control payments and maximize investments. City National’s superior cash management systems also provide remote account access to detailed balance and transaction information and enable businesses to monitor checks paid activity, transfer funds, request stop payments and simplify account reconciliation. Additionally, Automated Clearing House (ACH) services allow for swift debit and credit transactions as well as facilitating direct deposits for employee payroll. Just as important as managing cash flow is attracting and retaining key employees. So it is imperative that competitive businesses offer a competitive benefits package to keep workers from jumping ship, or to entice them to come aboard. Yet the complexities of managing even a small retirement plan can be daunting. Here again, City National can recommend a solution that’s the right fit for any given business — 401(k) plans, IRAs and IRA Rollovers, SEPs and Keoghs. Full service 401(k) programs are available that offer a large selection of investment options including mutual funds that are invested in stocks, bonds and other short-term vehicles. The bank’s 401(k) plans include direct telephone access to account information and easy to understand employee communications for participant enrollment and education. Indeed, plan support is just as important as the plan itself. Instead of offering a one-size-fits-all business loan, City National is well-equipped to provide a number of custom-tailored lending solutions for today’s entrepreneurial businesses. For example, many closely held businesses are eligible to qualify for Small Business Administration (SBA)-sponsored loan programs. A loan officer who is well versed in the intricacies of the SBA can prove invaluable in finding the right loan. Businesses in the Los Angeles area owned by women and minorities can take advantage of a new SBA pilot program, The Women and Minority Pre-qualification Loan Program. Designed to help eligible small businesses access capital through the coordinated efforts of both the public and private sector, this program uses local, private sector organizations as intermediaries to assist in the loan process. City National Bank, an SBA preferred lender and supporter of the pilot program, has established a partnership with the East Los Angeles Small Business Development Corporation (SBDC) to assist borrowers in drafting a viable loan application. The prospective borrower initially seeks counsel from an SBA loan officer at the bank, who then refers the borrower to the SBDC for assistance in filling out and submitting the loan application directly to the SBA for expedited consideration. Once approved, the borrower works directly with the bank. What else can a financial institution like City National provide? The list goes on. Personal investment management, including retirement planning, personal trusts and estate administration; international banking, including trade financing, foreign exchange services and foreign credit; and specialized industry lending are all part of the bank’s repertoire. Most importantly, City National’s associates recommend and manage the products and services that are best suited to meet a business’s individual needs. And they do so without being asked. As every entrepreneur knows, heading into unexplored waters can, indeed, be risky. But with the right crew along to help navigate, the rewards can be immense. Just ask Columbus. Kristine Chung serves as senior vice president/manager of the Small Business Administration Lending Department at City National Bank’s Pershing Square office, (213) 347-2433.