This past March, many American entrepreneurs learned the value of a good relationship with their bank.
“When the PPP program went live, we jumped in with both feet,” says Nate Dinger, head of the commercial banking division at Chicago-based Signature Bank. “We were working seven days a week, twelve- to fourteen-hour days to try to make sure that all of our clients got PPP funding because we didn’t know there was going to be a second traunch that would allow everybody to participate. It was a mad dash to the cookie jar that first time around.
“Thankfully,” Dinger continues, “we can report that every single one of our clients that wanted a PPP loan got it.”
In addition, Signature Bank was able to help secure PPP funding for a number of other businesses—including many EO members—whose banks either were unresponsive or failed in providing a point of contact that was available.
“A lot of the larger national players just didn’t care,” Dinger explains. “A small deal is a small deal to them, and there really is no relationship. So, we had a lot of folks jump ship, and we were happy to help.”
Relationships are what Signature Bank is known for. Founded in 2006 by three Chicago bankers who formerly ran a commercial team at LaSalle Bank, Signature Bank is privately held and focused on banking other privately-held businesses.
“I think that’s why we’ve been a good fit with EO,” says Dinger, who has been with the bank since 2010. “We’re privately held, locally owned, locally operated, and we know the story. We came from nothing, and now we’re at $1 billion in assets—so we understand the journeys that these business owners go through.”
One such business owner (and EO member) is Anthony Ramirez, president and CEO of Lincoln Security Services.
“When COVID started, one of the first calls I made was to Nate,” Ramirez recalls. “While I was in a bit of a panic, he reassured me that Signature would be there every step of the way, and they kept that promise. Whenever Nate received an update on the PPP program, he immediately contacted me. This resulted in my company having our application ready to go the minute they were being accepted. We received funds on the first day that funds were available.”
Signature Bank is now in its sixth year as a Knowledge Partner of EO Chicago—an effort led by Dinger, who is often at EO events and presenting to forums. His engaging and trustworthy personality aligns perfectly with the bank’s focus on relationships. During those fourteen-hour days in the spring when he was helping local businesses secure PPP funding, he was also a new father helping to raise his infant son while working from home—and while moving to a new home in Elmhurst.
Now, Dinger is focused on helping clients through the PPP forgiveness process.
“Companies with PPP loans should be ensuring their paperwork is ready to get their loan forgiven right now,” he advises. “It turns from a loan into a grant, so work with your payroll company and your accountant to make sure you have your headcount, your payroll documentation, your tax filings—everything in a row by the filing deadline, which is approaching quickly.”
Another piece of advice? “Look at your capital position,” he says. “What’s your liquidity look like? What happens if, for some reason, we go into another lockdown type of situation? Cash is king now more than ever. Maybe don’t take the distribution now. For companies that are doing well, maybe just wait a little longer.”
“The last six months have been full of uncertainty for all of us,” says Bobby Achettu, founder and CEO of Accelerated Growth, “but Nate Dinger and his team have been incredible partners to my firm as we managed our own working capital needs, along with the needs of our clients. Signature Bank truly embodies the EO core value of ‘Boldly Go.’”
Dinger expresses that he is always available for a call, Zoom meeting, or a cocktail in person. He says, “We’re open all the time. We don’t charge by the hour.”
It’s further evidence of the bank’s focus on building relationships. “People always want a bank to quantify its value, and it’s not always a dollars-and-cents value proposition,” Dinger says. “But situations like the PPP rollout this year—where we already had half of our clientele funded before other banks even enrolled in the program—is the type of value proposition that is quantifiable.
“We’re here for you in good times and in bad,” he adds. “We have faces rather than 1-800 numbers. It’s really, in our opinion, the right way to do business.”