There is plenty of evidence that community banks, even those that specifically seek to serve underrepresented groups, find a challenge in maintaining a pipeline of CRA eligible loan activities. [Continue]
Business incubators provide support for businesses in the earliest stages of their existence. They provide space for ideas and inventions (the beginning of the business lifecycle) and access to working capital through pooled funds provided by banks, micro-credit financiers, venture capitalists, grants, and guaranteed loan programs. Wisconsin’s StartingBlock Madison and the Start Garden in Grand Rapids, Mich., are two incubators that have created an ecosystem conducive to research and development.
Development work at StartingBlock Madison began in 2014 and it launched in 2017 after completing a $10 million funding drive. The organization’s stated goal is to “cultivate entrepreneurs and build innovative companies,” and to create jobs and stimulate the regional economy. In other words, it’s an entrepreneurial hub and an ecosystem, and it’s situated directly across the street from Wisconsin’s capitol.
Chandra Miller Fienen, director of operations and programs, said StartingBlock Madison and its partners have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion, social justice, and giving back to the community. That community includes social entrepreneurs as well as scalable start-ups. Jorge Gonzalez, executive director of the Start Garden, like Miller Fienen, finds advantage in aggregating the contributions from banks. It is beneficial to the Start Garden to have created “evergreen funding” instead of one-time contributions; it helps assure access to year-after-year funding. [Continue]
The best companies in your loan portfolio are likely the ones at capacity, providing stable and predictable return on investment. It doesn’t matter if these firms are large economic enterprises or small mom-n-pop shops — sales and earnings variances are low and businesses experience planned growth with long term stability.
One only needs to look at the business lifecycle model and place a finger firmly on the place where business is at market equilibrium (see graph 1). Your best businesses are at the place on the model that creditworthiness risk algorithms are designed for — the prediction of future trajectory based on a substantial record of past performance. But something is missing. This is not the only phase on the business lifecycle model, and certainly it does not take into account businesses that are at the point of invention, innovation or pre-launch development — which includes research and development activities — nor does it account for business launch, the period of exponential growth on the way to capacity and equilibrium, nor businesses that are ready for expansion. These six “other” phases are real and they deserve bankers’ attention.
The business lifecycle model is a valuable tool because in its totality, it reminds that the phases of a business’ lifecycle can be identified in discrete and knowable pieces, and that the phases have predictable characteristics. The characteristics of each phase are different, and shouldn’t be measured using the same criteria — if for example, we judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, the fish will fail every time.
Likewise, a banking culture that is driven by a measure of what is not helps no one go forward. Ratios and algorithms tell the banker what is, but do not provide any insight into the questions what else, who else, and so what? The answers to these questions come with evaluation in the presence of the appropriate criteria relevant to the specific phases of lifecycle. This is not a process where one tool fits all uses. Resilience and a commitment to evaluating each business phase as an opportunity is a creative endeavor, one that can help overcome banker burn-out and bring an excitement that is the result of finding and applying fresh perspectives to solutions all along the business lifecycle. It helps bankers and businesses alike to meet each other where they are, on the way to where they need to be. [Continue]
The call for public banking is both resurgent and pervasive across the United States, and may actually be gaining momentum outside of its core sponsor groups. Interest in public banking is widespread. Reasons vary, but often come down to unmet need and disparity. [Continue]
“Robotics is huge,” said Curtis Drozd, a third-generation corn, soybean and sorghum farmer in the southwestern Michigan town of Allegan. Drozd has invested in unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, and GPS-integrated auto-steering computers on his tractors. Lest you think Drozd’s auto-steer system is rugged and reliable enough to allow his tractor to autonomously start itself in the barn, drive to the field, and complete plowing or planting all while he attends to other tasks on the farm, Drozd is quick to clarify: We still need the farmer. [Continue]