5 Traits That Successful Bank Lenders Share

Successful Lender Tactics

The most successful commercial lenders possess many skills and understand the intricacies of legal, financial and sales concepts.  To be successful in today’s competitive environment, the best lenders continue to find ways of improving their skill set.  We observe that the most successful commercial lenders that we work with consistently demonstrate five important behaviors and traits.

Discerning in their Clients

Successful lenders understand that their time and energy is limited.  You cannot bank every client and nor should you want to.  Successful lenders have a smaller number of bigger and more profitable relationships.  Those lenders focus their attention to high-value customers that can generate more profit for the bank.

Successful lenders

Size of the total relationship is one important variable, the other is identifying borrowers that are willing to pay the bank to achieve the required return on equity.  That involves identifying customers that are both less price sensitive and those that value the lender’s advisory role.

Focused On Knowledge And Service

Closely related to choosing the right customer is choosing the right market/knowledge base.  Lenders cannot be expected to understand every business in every market.  Successful lenders choose a limited number of business fields and become experts in each of them.  We have seen successful lenders become experts in lending to hospitality, agriculture, municipality or homeowners associations industries.  Being an expert in one field is not realistic for the average community bank lenders because of limited opportunities and balance sheet concentration limits.  However, at national banks such high specialization is common.  On the other hand, being an expert in 10 fields is unrealistic for other reasons – there is not enough time and deal flow to become an expert in that many areas.  Lenders that can specialize in an industry, market segment or a product become indispensable trusted advisors that garner higher pricing for their services.  

When these lenders layer a high level of customer service on their clients, they become unstoppable against their competition.

Customer experience in lending

Organized in Marketing

Successful sales people organize their calling efforts and use tools to manage their various relationships.  While the average successful lender may have 20 to 50 client relationships, they may have a pipeline of hundreds of prospects at various stages of the sales process.  It is impossible to keep track of that many relationships, people, deal flow and required follow-ups without a system or software program.  Successful lenders all use some form of customer relationship management tool to help them plan, prioritize and track their sales efforts.

Meticulous on Profit

We notice that successful lenders focus on the profit for each customer.  They are not driven strictly by the size of the loan or deposit relationship.  They are also not focused on the prospect with the loudest voice or most immediate needs.  Successful lenders achieve a balance of bringing value to the right customer with bring profitability for all parties.  Of course, it helps if the institution shares that same vision with the lender.  All too often bankers will focus on customers with the largest profile, most prominent position or deepest pockets.  However, those are not necessarily the most profitable relationships for the bank.

Institutionalize the Client

No one lender can deliver all products and services required for a customer.  The client must be served by the entire bank and not just the single relationship manager.  Successful lenders know when to bring in specialists from other areas of the bank and allow other managers to establish a relationship with the customer.  It is important that the client be a good fit with the whole bank and not just with the commercial lender.  For example, if your credit department is highly conservative and does not possess strong cash flow underwriting skills, a customer with primarily mezzanine financing needs will not be a good fit for the bank. 


Not all commercial lenders are equally successful, but every lender can improve on their abilities and become more successful.  We work with thousands of lenders at many banks across the country, and there are some very clear traits and behaviors that distinguish the most successful commercial lenders.   These top five traits and behaviors can improve any lender’s effectiveness.