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Written by Camilla Cornell
Canada's Best Bankers Soumaya Baker €¢ Dick Bradshaw €¢ Terry Wilson €¢
Joanne De Luca €¢ Jim Reader €¢ Wish List

Jim Reader: Coach’s corner


Senior relationship manager, Calgary Commercial Banking Centre; Scotiabank; Calgary

Years with bank: 26

Years in current job: 3.5

Credit authority: $150,000

With approval: Unlimited

Loans managed: $165 million

No. of clients: 7 direct; more than 100 under his staff of four

Loans called in 2002: None

Philosophy: “I have a win-win philosophy. It has to work for our customers primarily, but also for the bank.”

Jim Reader grew up in a family immersed in the pulp-and-paper business, and recalls having a healthy interest in the way things worked in the business world even as a child. After 26 years with Scotiabank, that fascination hasn’t faded.

It makes Reader a quick study, says Wayne Henuset, owner of Willow Park Wines and Spirits Ltd., a Calgary retailer: “Normally with people you have to explain what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. He just completely gets it — you can’t lose him.” For that reason, Henuset actually consults Reader and his four-person team for business advice. “I rely on them to take a second look whenever I come across a business opportunity,” explains Henuset. “I value their opinion.”

It’s a two-way relationship in which Reader frequently volunteers guidance. One recent example: when Henuset was using his operating line of credit to fund an addition to an existing building, Reader advised Henuset to take out a construction loan and save the credit line — which is vital around Christmas — for emergencies and urgent buying opportunities. “We have a $2.5 million swing in our operating line of credit from December 20 to January 1 because Christmas has such a big impact on sales,” says Henuset. “We stock up … and we have to pay for all our product two days before we receive it.” Henuset says Reader’s input “keeps us in line” — and has helped Willow Park grow revenue from $10 million nine years ago to $50 million today: “He’s a Dad.”

Reader says it’s all in a day’s work: “A good banker has to create a positive customer experience at every interaction.” That means lending money, offering advice or helping to source financing when all or part of a requested loan cannot be issued by the bank alone. He views his role as a liaison between the bank and his clients, which is no small task given his client portfolio: companies in sectors from grain-handling to high tech, with sales of $50 million to $500 million a year.

“You are between the bank and the customer, so you’ve got to be good at communicating both ways,” Reader explains. “You have to let the organization know what the needs of the client are, and then use your expertise and the data available through the bank to find the right solution for the client. We work closely with other groups in the bank, from capital markets to foreign exchange and trade finance. My job is to bring that together with what the customer is looking for.”

Reader’s best advice for business owners? Prove you can manage in good times and bad. First, talk about past challenges and how your company responded to them. Second, have a contingency plan in place. “What bad things could happen and how would the company cope? If you can explain that to a banker, that really increases our confidence level.”

Like all of Canada’s Best Bankers, he believes open and honest communication between client and banker is the cornerstone of an effective banking relationship. So, what to do if you’ve met your end of the bargain — and you feel your banker hasn’t met his?

“We want your business over the course of a lifetime, so if the banker has dropped the ball, they will appreciate you being honest with them,” Reader advises. If discussions with your banker don’t relieve the problem, alert your banker’s superior. “We understand that sometimes the chemistry isn’t working,” says Reader. “Team leaders can help resolve impasses.”

In fact, trouble spots are the ultimate test of a great banker. “The real magic happens when you handle downturns — say, a company has made some decisions that are now resulting in a lower cash flow for a period of time,” says Reader. “Your problem-solving through that period really engenders loyalty and stronger relationships.”

Canada's Best Bankers Soumaya Baker €¢ Dick Bradshaw €¢ Terry Wilson €¢
Joanne De Luca €¢ Jim Reader €¢ Wish List

© 2003 Camilla Cornell

Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com