Local bank is in the business of small business

Local bank is in the business of small business
The Business Bank at 697 Washington St. specializes in the finances of small business owners. (Derrick Perkins)

Local businessman William Cromley readily admits he takes on “unique” building projects and that requires a “unique” bank. Enter The Business Bank.

“For me, I’m sort of a boutique builder,” Cromley said. “I like to do projects other people won’t want to do. A traditional bank will look at that and say, ‘It’s too dangerous. It’s not a standard deal, not a money maker.’ I can make my case with a smaller bank.”

The advantageous flexibility of a small, local bank — not to mention the personal ties forged through years of working together — has kept Cromely coming back to The Business Bank for about 15 years. A subsidiary of the United Financial Banking Companies, Inc., The Business Bank recently opened its eighth Northern Virginia branch on the 600 block of N. Washington St.

While it handles personal accounts, the bank is geared toward working with small businesses, said Harold Rauner, president and CEO. Founded in 1981, the bank has expanded at the rate of roughly one new location every two years since 1999.

It primarily looks for areas with a vibrant small business community, Rauner said. Alexandria, already home to dozens of Business Bank customers, was the natural next step.

“[Alexandria] has all of the demographics we like, and first and foremost, it’s a readily identifiable business community,” Rauner said. “We don’t think it’s an overbanked community.”

Though the Alexandria branch has officially been open just about one month, it’s already shown signs of success, he said. The Business Bank is already eyeing other locales for future expansions but won’t make any announcement until after bank officials are sure the Alexandria branch is fully serving its clientele.

The bank’s success is due in part to the regional economy. The Washington metropolitan area weathered the recession better than most. And though bankers have received a black eye in recent years, Rauner believes its through thick and thin relationship with local customers and 16th consecutive quarterly 5-Star rating from BauerFinancial Inc. have kept clients returning.

Val Hawkins, president and CEO of Alexandria Economic Development Partnership, called The Business Bank’s new branch a positive sign for Alexandria.

“They obviously think Alexandria is a good market for them and we’re very pleased,” Hawkins said, noting AEDP’s office is near the new branch. “I just think it’s very positive to have another healthy bank in town, especially a growing bank. We’re pleased.”

The bank’s strength is its flexibility, Rauner said. It can adapt to the needs of one community without making company-wide policy shifts. The decision-making is local, based on the needs of the community.

While Cromley doesn’t deal exclusively with The Business Bank, he welcomes its new Alexandria location. It might sound touchy-feely, but he has the impression the bank’s as interested in him and his projects as it is in making money.

“It seems symbiotic,” he said. “What’s good for me is good for them. I don’t want to trash any huge banks, but you have the sense their bottom line is their bottom line. A smaller bank looks at it like we’re a team. They’re interested in me. It seems like a fair business relationship.”