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Local Favor The trend in SMB banking is all about staying close to home.

By Jennifer Pellet

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When Lisa Ross was shopping around for a line of credit, a majorretail bank offered a BlackBerry as an account-opening incentive.But Ross opted instead for the personal service her local,two-branch community bank would bring to the table. "And interms of granting credit, smaller banks are more hungry for thebusiness," says the 38-year-old CEO and founder of FAOResearch Inc., a finance and accounting outsourcing research firmin Cambridge, Massachusetts. "I probably got approved morequickly than I would have at a large national chain."

Ross' experience epitomizes a shift underway in banking,says Terry McEvoy, a bank analyst at New York City-based financialinvestment firm Oppenheimer & Co. He sees the growth ofcommunity banks and entrepreneurial businesses as fundamentallylinked. "Community banks are the fastest-growing segment inthe banking industry, and the [entrepreneurial] customer, in turn,is the bread-and-butter customer for a community bank," hesays. "The business owner uses the banker as his or her CFO ina way, someone to lean on and trust when it comes to makingdecisions. So it's a very full relationship."

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