August 19, 2010

New York-based Sterling National Bank ($2.1 billion in assets) has recently seen a significant percentage of its growth as the result what it calls a "flight to quality," or the effect of dissatisfied customers leaving larger banks for more personalized service at a smaller bank or community bank.

"I think for community banks and banks like Sterling it’s a very exciting time in the marketplace because you have the opportunity to be recognized for what you do," says Michael Bizenov, Sterling National Bank EVP.

Further, he adds, the bank has not just seen growth in the form of customers leaving larger banks, but also in new employees, who bring experience and add to the bank's overall quality. The bank recently announced the hiring of two new vice presidents and business development officers, Ed Huntzinger and Salvatore Loiacano.

"Everything that we offer to the customer becomes attractive to those high level professionals," Bizenov says.

Bizenov says Sterling's core customers are business customers - companies with revenues averaging between $500,000 and $20 million — adding "I don’t like to say small business, because no business is small as far as we’re concerned."

When it comes to technology, Bizenov says small banks and community banks are right there with the larger banks, providing the same services customers have come to expect and, in some cases, leading the way.

"I think in some cases the community banks and the smaller banks had to get more nimble in their deployment of technology," Bizenov says. "I don’t’ think that there has to be at all any sacrifice in terms of technology when it comes to a community bank."