Many people find interviews uncomfortable but unavoidable parts of life. This is as true for an interview with your banker as it is for a job interview. In both cases, the other party has something you want. We'll look at some tips that can help you go into the interview process with some bargaining power on your side.
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Prepare Your Papers
Before you even book an appointment or step into a branch, have a clear idea of what you need and what you have. Write a personal balance sheet listing your income, debts and assets. The bank will require this information anyhow, but it helps to tally it up in your free time when you can seriously look at what you own. (Buying rental property with personal, cash-collateralized loans is a smart move. Learn more in How To Tap Banks For Real Estate Loans.)
More often than not, the bank merely wants to hear yearly income and outstanding debts. By compiling the list in advance, you can add in the assets that make your case look stronger. As a general rule, if it is valuable enough to be covered under insurance, it's worth listing as an asset.
Once you have your assets and liabilities tallied up, you'll know what you need in the case of a consolidation loan, and what you can handle in the case of a business loan or other type of loan. Write up a short page explaining what you are looking for in clear language - e.g. "I want a $20,000 loan to consolidate my credit card balances at a low interest rate" - followed by the supporting documents. This could simply be your balance sheet with the interest rates on it and a letter of employment or it may be a complete business model with statistics on your market.
Give Advanced Notice
Once you have your papers in order, make the appointment with your banker. Before the appointment, preferably two or three days in advance, drop off your papers at the branch so your banker will have time to look through them. This will save the time spent on preliminaries in the interview and allow you more time for negotiating. This also tells your banker that you are serious and organized. The personal opinion of your banker doesn't count for as much it used to due to the increased role of computer risk models in banking, but it is still worth getting; having a banker going to bat for you can still open doors.
Practice Your Pitch
Your banker is likely going to be working off a script to some extent, and so should you. Don't volunteer information randomly. Instead, plan out what additional details to give and take the time to consider your answers to questions rather than rambling on at length.
For example "I changed careers in 2009, and I was dependent on the credit card for two months in between," is an explanation that contains all the relevant details. It's far better than, "I was unemployed for two months because my idiot of a boss fired me. You think he'd know not to park his car in a forklift lane." These unplanned slip-ups that come out when you're nervous can hurt your personal capital with the bank.
If you get what you want on the first visit, congratulations! If not, don't just give up. Update your banker as your situation changes. If you buy a new car, add it to your balance sheet and send it to your banker again. If you've paid off and closed a credit card, let your banker know. If your company sees increased sales, add that to your loan pitch and try it again. (Now is the time to lock in your variable rate student loan to optimize your educational investment and save on your repayment. Learn more in Consolidate Your Student Loans Now And Save.)
All the risks in lending come from a lack of information. By following up with your banker and keeping your information as complete and up-to-date as possible, you are reducing the risks for the bank. This makes you look better and better as time goes on.
Finally, remember that your bank is not the only bank around. You can repeat this process at competing banks that may want new business enough that they will cut you the deal you want. Your banker knows this, and if he or she knows you are aware of it to, it may encourage the bank to make an exception to keep your business. Even if they are willing to compromise, it's always a good idea to shop around. (Many banks are now offering free perks to entice new customers. Don't miss The 8 Best Bank Perks.)
The Bottom Line
A loan is a deal, just like any other business deal. If you want the bank to give you what you want, you have to put in the effort to become the type of client they want - organized, reliable and motivated. This will go a long way towards convincing the bank that dealing with you is a good business decision. It may not work the first try, but over time you'll be able to win over your banker or easily find what you need elsewhere.
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