Bank Relationships—A Painful Lesson

We have a construction client who’s been in business for quite a few years. They have a small balance on the building’s mortgage, a Line of Credit, and a few truck loans. Twice a year, the banker would stop by, say high, pick up the CPA’s annual Financial Report and be on their merry way.

Then one of the owners passed away. At first, nothing changed in the banking relationship. Then about six months in, the bank asked why the company was not providing the monthly reports that are detailed in the loan documents. After all these years and visits, this hadn’t come up, so the company said they’d take a look. Unfortunately, the bookkeeper was not qualified to compile these reports and didn’t have the necessary training.

In the meantime, the bank decided to freeze a sizeable amount of funds in the Operating account. There was a lengthy conversation about the additional burden and impact to the business, their suppliers, their ability to get waivers to receive payments due, and the spiral that this would create. The bank said they understood, but would not change their mind.

Efforts were made to create the highpriority reports the bank wanted to see and the owner was willing to put personal funds into the company in the interim, provided the bank agreed not to freeze any more funds. Agreements were made by both parts (I was on the call). The bank then indicated they were going to end the relationship and the owner should start looking for a new bank.

Meanwhile, the bank would not paydown the LOC with the frozen funds. So in addition to having a significant amount of cash unavailable, they were being charged interest!

Then the dreaded day arrived—the bank froze the rest of the funds. They only good news here is that the owner had already found another bank and was wrapping up the final documents.

There are excellent banks out there, and some wonderful loan officers that we’ve had the privilege to work with on behalf of our clients. If you have one of these amazing people, go buy them some Phoenix Rescue cookies, or send them a thank you card!

A word of caution: As the business owner, staying on top of the bank relationship and making sure you’re in compliance rests squarely on YOUR shoulders. Don’t wait for them to ask for what you already agreed to provide. This puts you in a difficult and defensive posture, limiting your options. Make sure you have options; the only person out for your business is you! Not sure how to get a report? Not confident the info is true or correct? Get some help, get educated. We’ve being providing this kind of support to our clients for decades, which his why this client knew in advance what might happen and could act quickly. It’s not over for this client, but it looks like they’ll pull through and leave that bank in the rearview mirror. —CMW