professional services firms


Medical practiceslaw offices and other professional services firms have unique needs that not all banks can meet. Jim Wullschleger, Senior Vice President, Business Banking Credit & Group Manager, at City National Bank, and David Park, Senior Vice President, Business Banking Sales & Group Manager at City National Bank, discuss what these businesses should look for in a their bank.

Q. In your experience, what do professional service firms really need from a bank?
A. Wullschleger: Over and over again, the owners of these companies tell me they want expertise and personalized attention. They want to work with an organization that truly understands their industry and their particular needs. They want their business banker to sit down with them, really learn about them and provide a program tailored for their company.

"Relationship banking" is an overused term in this industry, but very few banks actually take the time to provide it. You need a banker who's genuinely interested in what you do, committed to your relationship and ready and able to develop it over the long term. Your banker should also be constantly accessible and available. This is missing in a lot of banking relationships.

Q. What options should be on the menu?
A. Wullschleger: Clearly, you will want deposit and loan services. But a good professional service banking program will offer much more. Look for a sophisticated online banking platform, treasury management services, fraud protection and expertise in international banking.

A. Park: The bank should also be up to speed on the latest technology. You should be able to do mobile banking and depositing checks through your smart phone has become a basic technology today. New innovative technology products such as our Book2Bank product, which provides the ability to do banking transactions directly from your accounting software so that you aren't making double entries into the bank's system is becoming a vital part of a banking relationship. Many banks don't have this capability.

Q. Should investment management be part of the mix?
A. Wullschleger: Personal and business activities are often intertwined in small businesses. Medical practices, law offices and other professionals often need access to a whole suite of wealth management services. In addition to investment management, look for services like succession, insurance and tax planning. You may want trust management as well.

Q. How can a bank help a firm's partners and other associates?
A. Park: Professional service banking should serve the whole firm, including the principals and other individuals within the firm. And all those individuals should receive personal attention. You want a bank that's big enough to provide a full range of products and services but small enough to give everyone the attention they deserve.

Q. Is expertise in specific fields and services important?
A. Park: Yes. Your bank should have relationship managers who know how to service medical practices, law offices and companies in other fields. Your personal banker should be able to call on specialists to meet any of your needs — whether they involve cash management, international banking, wealth management or what have you.

A. Wullschleger: We call this the "quarterback principle." You can talk to your relationship manager — your quarterback — at any time. That person is very knowledgeable about your business but can also round up whatever experts are required for specific tasks. Also look for a relationship manager with longevity. The best institutions tend to be those where people have been around a long time. If a relationship manager does move on, the bank should do a good job of helping the client transition to a new one.

Q. What is the single most important thing a bank should provide to a professional services firm?
A. Park: I'll put it in a single word: relationship. The bank should be a trusted advisor to the firm.

A. Wullschleger: I agree. I've been in this business more than 30 years, and business owners still constantly express how much they need this. Most small professional services firms don't have the capacity to hire someone to focus on their financial needs. Their CPAs tend to help keep them in line from a tax standpoint, but most firms require more than this. They should be able to turn to their banker for every form of financial assistance.

City National Bank is committed to developing deep and long-lasting relationships with its professional service clients. Learn how City National Bank can help your firm.