How banks are evolving to meet the needs of small businesses

Joe Atkinson South Florida Region President – Wells Fargo

How have the needs of South Florida small businesses evolved in recent years?

The studies we conducted in 2015 showed that small business owners are looking to make investments into their businesses, including owning their buildings. In addition, interest rates on five-year loans under the SBA 7(a) program have become fixed, so more small businesses are taking advantage of the program. As a result of these trends, small business owners are becoming more intentional about learning how to borrow money and manage credit. Wells Fargo is adding more bankers and opening new branches in Miami-Dade to respond to the needs of all of its customers, particularly in growth areas like Doral, as well as helping small business owners develop sound strategy, like building effective business plans through wellsfargoworks.com, a website designed for small business owners.

Miami-Dade is market dominated by small and medium enterprises (SMEs). What progress has been made to expand access to credit to these entities?

New models of lending are being created to suit the needs of SMEs. We have teams of experts who are familiar with the needs of particular industries and this understanding allows us to accept more types of borrowers. For example, we found that private medical practices need credit for certain types of medical equipment, which cost a certain amount. We subsequently created a lending model to help these practices based on our knowledge of their anticipated needs. We have also noticed that some SMEs are seeking to consolidate or acquire other businesses, and we are facilitating these needs as well.

One growing segment in Miami-Dade is tech startups. As with all startup businesses that are not traditional recipients of bank loans, banks still have a responsibility to help these businesses. Banks need to take an active role in serving startups by offering financial services, like facilitating cash flow and credit management.

What are some of the key challenges South Florida’s banking sector faces?

One challenge is addressing fraud, which, although is a global challenge, we see a high incidence of in Miami-Dade. Today, we are seeing more instances of click jacking, or the use of social media to mislead people into giving up their bank account information. In these schemes, people click on a link promising to deposit checks into their accounts and end up compromising their accounts. Banks have to pay close attention to how fraudsters are using technology and develop ways to counteract it, as well as invest in educating its customers of these dangers.