Community Bank harnesses long-term relationship for small business growth in Western Pennsylvania

Publish Date May 10th, 2024

Banking veteran Ronald Manges isn’t shy about his mission as vice president and director of business banking at Community Bank. Beneath his email signature, his personal “tagline” boldly advises potential business customers and sets the course for his efforts in building this banking division.

It states: “If you don’t have a professional banker in your toolbox, you are missing a valuable component in the management of your business.”

“This drives why we formed the division and what differentiates us,” Manges said.

Manges, who has spent the past 29 years in Pittsburgh’s commercial banking market, joined Community Bank in 2022 to help build Community Bank’s business banking department focusing on providing an exceptional client experience in an area that is often overlooked. Since then, Manges and his colleagues have assembled three teams of banking professionals and implemented technology to make the process of securing a loan, setting up bank accounts and utilizing all of the services needed by small businesses as seamless as possible.

A large part of the work involved installed a new loan operating system that enables clients to upload and receive loan documents electronically, stay informed about the status of their request and engage with their Banker when and where they choose to which, Manges contended, “is a testimony to our commitment to our people centric and tech forward commitment.”

Manges recently sat down with The Pittsburgh Business Times to discuss Community Bank’s development of a dedicated Small Business Banking division and why the bank’s relationship-building efforts are leading to differentiated customer experiences. This interview is part of Community Bank’s Business Insights series, presented in partnership with the Business Times.

An “underserved” segment

Community Bank strategically targeted creating a dedicated small business division, Manges said, because it has been “one of the most underserved client segmentations in the entire market that we serve.”

The bank’s new division targets small businesses with up to $1 million in borrowing needs, while also helping entrepreneurs navigate the financing landscape to make the right financial decisions. The division, Manges said, also offers deposit, merchant and treasury management services.

What makes Community Bank different? “We deliver great customer experiences,” Manges said. “We’re not the only bank with such a program, but what’s different about us is our professional service delivery from knowledgeable bankers.” Which takes Manges back to his toolbox tagline.

Building relationships first

“This is why we formed the division and what differentiates us,” he continued. “Most small business owners have professionals they rely on – attorneys, CPAs, insurance agents. But many of them miss the importance of developing a relationship with a banker. So what happens when a financing need arises? Most just walk into or call their bank, but they don’t know what they are getting.”

His advice to small business owners: “Call us. Get to know us. Invest the time now so we can help when you need. For us, the customer experience is what it’s all about.”

Manges said his team’s extensive banking experience means that they have seen what it takes to make a business work and can help business owners early to better understand what they might need to finance their growth.

“For instance, I speak daily with business owners who say they need a line of credit,” Manges explained. “As I explore their business needs with them, I often find that they don’t need a line of credit. Instead, they need a real estate, vehicle, or other specific type of loan that is better suited to their unique situation. Working capital needs are different from fixed asset purchases and our experience helps understand which product is the best fit.”

To get to such decisions, though, the bankers and business owners need time to get to know one another better from a business perspective.

“It’s a mutual learning process,” Manges said, “as we learn about a business — it’s structure, operation, financials, and goals — we are able to provide valuable feedback and immediately start the process to apply for a loan. Even in situations where we are not able to immediately assist with financing, we take the time to explain what factors could be changed or improved that could lead to a loan approval situation in the future.

Speed to market

Another significant differentiator for Community Bank, Manges said, is the bank’s ability to make quick decisions for its clients.

“I’ve been in banking for 29 years, and too often, loan requests require significant documentation and are overanalyzed, with applicants not knowing where the loan is in the process and what the result will be for one, two, three or even four weeks,” Manges suggested. “As professionals, our banking unit is well versed in assisting business owners with financing and deposit strategies, which means we know what to do with requests. We know the path to take, and the big differentiating point is our speed and transparency in the process. We typically have the ability to deliver loan decisions in one or two business days once we have the information needed.”

Manges credits the bank’s decision-making ability on new infrastructure developed by the Bank to efficiently facilitate the loan application and closing. That’s where the creation of the banking unit’s three teams comes into play.

“We developed teams to process applications, make a decision and close a loan ” he explained. Supporting those teams is a new loan operating system, allowing clients to view where their application is in the process and send and receive information to the bank on an encrypted system, “a large investment for the bank to deliver an exceptional client experience.”

As a result of the bank’s differentiators, Manges said, Community Bank’s small business division, in the first three months of 2024 alone, completed over 40 loans for local small businesses. “We know what we are doing, and we deliver it well. Supporting small businesses in our communities is part of our mission statement and we work hard to live it everyday” he said.

And that’s where Manges’s tagline comes to life.

“That’s not just a line at the end of my emails. Working with small businesses and seeing the challenges they face every day, I have the utmost respect for anybody who starts and successfully runs a business,” he said. “If you’re missing out on having a banker and just treat your financing needs as an afterthought, you’re not going to get the full value of a relationship with a seasoned professional in your toolbox.”

For more information about Community Bank and its commercial banking services, including its Health Care Banking and Treasury Services units, go to www.cb.bank.

MEMBER FDIC