As the only event of its kind dedicated solely to banking that supports small businesses, the American Banker Small Biz Banking Conference is a must-attend for our team every year, and 2023 was no different. Our three days in Nashville were jam-packed with insights, conversations, and ideas to help Amount’s banking customers gain their Performance Advantage with a group that’s ripe with opportunities.
Inflation, high-interest rates, regulatory headwinds, and tougher lending criteria have all added up to a tough year for small business owners. Unsurprisingly, October’s NFIB Small Business Optimism Index was below average again, for the 22nd consecutive month. Based on our time at the Small Biz Banking Conference, though, there are strong indicators that small business owners’ gloomy outlook could start to dissipate in 2024 — at least if banks have anything to say about it.
Here are our three top takeaways from Music City:
1. SMB lending, now more than ever, is a top priority for banks of all sizes
This was a top conversation across the board, even among credit unions, who are not historically active participants in this space. Since small business lending has always been considered riskier — and certainly is now with tightening credit standards — many banks are looking to make material changes to their SMB strategy.
2. SMB lending can be a great foot in the door for strong customer relationships
Small businesses have never been known for their strong loyalty to banks. Instead, they go with the bank that offers the best situation for their needs. In other words, just because your bank is home to their checking account doesn’t mean they’ll automatically choose you for their next loan.
Like any other business trying to attract, retain, and upsell customers, banks need to make a concerted effort to build relationships — and now banks are laser-focused on doing it in the small business sector. Part of the priority to build their SMB portfolios includes finding new ways to create primary relationships with borrowers. These business owners are also consumer customers and winning their trust in one area of their lives can lead to cross-selling into other aspects
3. There's a lot of SMB excitement
All in all, there was a lot of excitement around SMB lending. Of course, it’s always great to see our colleagues and hear fresh insights from the industry’s top thought leaders, but there was a palpable sense of excitement in the air this year about where SMB lending is headed.
Here at Amount, we’ve been excited for the new opportunities in small business lending for a while — it’s why we recently launched a new origination and decisioning platform that can help banks reach their SMB goals quickly and smoothly — and we’re thrilled to see that the rest of the industry is feeling invigorated too!