Joan Medeiros is the vice president of commercial services for BankFive based in Fall River, Mass. The independent community bank has 13 locations in Swansea, Somerset, Fall River, Dartmouth, New Bedford and Fairhaven.
For the third consecutive year, BankFive has been named both the minority lender of the year and the top lender in Bristol County, Mass., by the U.S. Small Business Association.
PBN: What makes BankFive different from other banks in the area?
MEDEIROS: BankFive has been on the same street corner in Fall River since 1855, which is something the entire staff and board of directors is proud of. One of our main goals is to make our local economy stronger and improve the lives of all who live and work here. Our approach is to empower our employees to be experts in their field and do the best they can for our customers and help them bank smart by banking locally.
PBN: You appear to excel in minority lending. How is that achieved?
MEDEIROS: Minority lending encompasses a broad group in the scope of the U.S. Small Business Administration. An interesting fact is that people who descend from the Iberian Peninsula are considered minorities under the SBA guidelines. This includes Spain, Portugal, Madeira and the Azores. The large Portuguese population in southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island has been one of the primary reasons we achieved this recognition.
PBN: How have you been able to achieve the top SBA lender for three straight years?
MEDEIROS: To clarify, BankFive is the top SBA lender in Bristol County. We established a formal SBA lending program nearly eight years ago, with entry in the SBA express program. It’s been a great partnership with SBA and BankFive has continued to grow the lending program with Patriot Express and now the Preferred Lender Program. We participated in the America’s Recovery Capital loan program, under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which assisted clients through the depths of the recession.
PBN: What are the specific advantages of being a preferred lender?
MEDEIROS: It requires us to be very conversant with the programs offered. Having preferred lender status also allows BankFive to be more responsive with clients. In fact, at a recent client meeting, we offered alternatives both with SBA and other affiliated programs. The clients were extremely appreciative that we came to the table with a variety of options for them.
PBN: How would you describe business in 2011 and what do you expect this year?
MEDEIROS: Overall, business was a bit better in 2011. However, in our experience, business owners continue to be concerned about the economy and changes in government policy. Thus far, activity in 2012 has been stronger as clients are looking closely at opportunities, especially given the low rate environment.