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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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