4 Characteristics of a FinPartner


By Chris Funck, Product Manager, Chatham Financial



Everyone is pitching something. To you, your customers, your prospects and your competitors. It’s been noisy the past few years and it’s only getting progressively noisier. Yet competition and innovation are critical to the long-term well-being of any business segment. Community and regional bank leaders accept the challenges, vet new opportunities and chart a course forward.

The good news is that you already know what success looks like. You know that success is achieved through mindsets, behaviors and actions where all parties benefit over the short- and long-term. In other words, by subscribing to a partnership model.

The financial crisis of 2008 reinforced what it looks like to serve clients as a long-term partner (and not). There is a maturity that comes with the experience of helping customers in times of challenge and struggle, not only in times of opportunity.

Bankers and industry leaders who live and breathe the partnership model are made up of resilient individuals, institutions and solution providers. They place the needs of their customer first. By consistently serving their customers with excellence, they earn the role of trusted partner.

What about third-party service providers: the new FinTech opportunity knocking on your door, your established core provider, an advisor, a correspondent banker? Does it matter to you how they approach their relationship with you, your customers, their customers and industry stakeholders?

When you have a very specific and well-defined need to fulfill, then you may very well be happily and effectively served via a standard bank-vendor, “arms-length” relationship. If, however, you are contemplating entering a new domain, such as launching a new product or service, you may be looking for a provider who operates and thinks more holistically about where you are now and where you’d like to go as the future unfolds. When this is the case, you may very well be looking for a FinPartner.

Adding partnership-oriented selection criteria may serve you well during your vetting process. Here are four characteristics (and examples of an anti-partner mindset) to evaluate the next time you are searching for a suitable FinPartner.

1. They listen, engage and offer solutions to real problems

A FinPartner takes the time to understand an individual client’s needs, preferences and goals. They dig in to what keeps you up at night, and they find creative ways to solve those problems.

Trust is at the forefront of how a FinPartner operates. They understand that trust takes a long time to gain and a short time to lose. A FinPartner values a trusted relationship over pitching the structure of the day or a solution that is a poor fit for the client.

FinPartners are not satisfied offering one-size-fits-all products. They resist surface-level transactions and avoid promises of “faster, better, cheaper” with the newest technology or business fad. They solve the underlying problem via proven solutions and expertise that are grounded in the needs of the client.

2. They’re in it for the long-term

A FinPartner has a long-term vision for the future that centers on their clients and their clients’ customers. They have diversified their business, have proven that they can survive through challenging times and demonstrated consistent investment in their clients’ success.

FinPartners hire talent that will add to the long-term value of the business ecosystem that they serve, so that they will remain relevant to their customers’ evolving needs. They also remain committed to sustainable business models and look out for their customers well-being over the long-term.

3. They are intentional in how they think invest and innovate

There is no question that what can be accomplished with today’s technology is far beyond what was possible a short time ago. And it is incomparable to what was possible in the 1990s and the first decade of the 2000s. At the same time, even with the promises of platform economics and new business models, tried-and-true business models remain relevant and critical. This mindset is important now more than ever, when at least on the surface, it appears to be so easy and fast to trade one technology component for another.

FinPartners know what it takes to innovate and build resilient technology solutions that stand the test of time and scale. They follow the hype cycle closely (and experiment often) to keep apprised of how to best apply new tools and technologies to deliver better solutions/innovations to their clients. They know by hard experience that true innovation comes from the right mix of people, process and technology.

However, FinPartners don’t use their customers as test subjects to assess their “minimum viable product” ideas. A FinPartner’s clients are not their product. Instead, FinPartners welcome the opportunity to actively participate with their clients to evaluate what comes next. They commit to building that thing and follow-on by iterating toward an even better solution.

4. They are professional

FinPartners treat the people and organizations in their industry with respect and dignity. FinPartners point out the factual and tangible pros and cons of a given solution set. They do their best to support an institution to make an informed decision on how to move forward.

A responsible FinPartner focuses their energy on the institution’s needs and preferences, not their own sense of superiority and place in the ecosystem. In some situations, the best suggested course of action for the provider to recommend is to use another provider. A FinPartner would provide this consultation, even at their own detriment, when they know this path is right for their client.

Finally, FinPartners are transparent. They are clear on how they are earning their fees, and how you can know that you are paying a fair price.

Many third parties today are masquerading as a partner. They talk a lot about being a trusted provider and taking a partnership approach. While there are many third parties that bill themselves as a “me too” partner, few have the experience or the pedigree to deliver on that promise.

Real FinPartners do exist. Some are established providers who never mention the word “partner.” Some are new start-ups in which their founders and organizational partnership mindset and ethos is self-evident.

While it requires additional time and energy to thoroughly vet a prospective vendor, determining if they are a true FinPartner, or simply a “me too” partner, is an important part of the due diligence process. Community banks should proceed with caution when a solution seems too good to be true as it often is.

Since 2001, Chatham Financial has partnered with banks of all sizes to help launch, run and grow successful customer back-to-back swap programs. As a result, Chatham is the largest and most experienced non-bank provider of back-to-back swap support to regional and community banks.

Are you interested in seeing how your interest rate swap program stacks up relative to your peers? Or perhaps you are not yet using swaps to win more commercial loan business but are curious to learn more. Request Chatham’s Benchmark Stats Report.