As previously published on In Business Wisconsin August 26, 2013 issue

By Timothy Kotnour is senior vice president, business segment leader in commercial banking for Associated Bank in southwest Wisconsin

In today’s fast-paced business environment, decisions get made more quickly than ever. However, since the Great Recession, more decisions are being made and more work is being done by fewer people as many businesses have had to cut employees and resources. While the economy appears to be on the mend, our recovery has been slow and questions remain about when conditions will approach pre-recession levels. Is there any relief in the interim? One surprising source of relief may lie with your commercial banker.

Looking back to the 1980s, our job as commercial bankers was what you would expect — providing business loans to clients. Over time, though, banks started to realize that clients’ needs were expanding outside of business loans and checking accounts and slowly started to offer a variety of financial services to aid clients. Today, almost all commercial bankers offer a full range of financial services, allowing clients to consolidate outside providers, cut costs, and streamline business processes and operations.

It is not uncommon to see small and large businesses alike use many different providers for many different services. Is this okay? Certainly! It may very well make sense for your business for reasons of cost, personal relationships, and/or capabilities that one provider has that another might not. However, some might be surprised how well their bank can do, and the expertise it has in providing many of these same services. The following is a rundown of companies’ most outsourced services and how commercial bankers can provide comparable offerings.

Retirement planning: Commercial bankers can assist with the comprehensive management of your organization’s retirement benefits and investments. Most banks that provide these services offer clients a variety of proprietary plans to choose from. Your bank most likely will also handle employee communication, plan administration, and investment and regulatory compliance, allowing further consolidation.

Business insurance: Banks’ business insurance offerings typically include insurance solutions such as executive risk, bonds, property and casualty, life, and disability.

Private banking: Private banking most often includes cash management and lending and credit services. Your commercial banker will connect you with a private banking relationship manager who will then provide you with customized guidance for your business needs.

International banking: Your bank can help support your global trade initiatives through international banking services that most often include letters of credit, export financing, wires, drafts, and daily foreign bank note rates.

Corporate credit or purchasing cards: Accessing these services through your bank can help you enhance purchasing power, control spending, and simplify recordkeeping.

Many banks market themselves as full financial services providers. These are convenient, value-added services that most banks now offer to help businesses obtain their goals and objectives. At the end of the day, your bank can help you consolidate outside providers, drive down costs, and increase your service levels. Additionally, your commercial banker can help eliminate time and effort in managing multiple outside vendors by providing the expertise and convenience so many businesses are searching for.

In all likelihood, your bank may have a high level of interest in helping you with these expanded services. And like many businesses, banks are able to provide more competitive pricing as you continue to expand the number of services you use. If you’re in the market to consolidate providers or are looking to potentially reduce costs and simplify processes, be sure to consult with your commercial banker on what more can be done.