Alex Sologoub of Bank of the West Discusses Business Financing
October 3, 2018
Erik Wolf: Welcome to The Denver Executive Association’s Trusted Advisor Podcast. Twice a month a double secret society of 30 of Denver’s top execs gather at the Ritchie Center at DU to share our knowledge, share our connections, and do business together. And twice a month one member is abducted and forced to sit across from me. My name is Erik Wolf. I’m with the digital marketing agency estound. We serve small and mid-sized business owners with CMO-level digital strategy, website design, and development, search engine optimization, pay-per-click advertising, marketing automation, all of that cool pixel stuff, so much more. And today my guest is Mr. Alex Sologoub, Senior Business Relations Manager for Bank of the West. He owns a B.S. in finance from Metro State College of Denver, a Masters of Science and Finance from the University of Denver. He’s worked in banking and manufacturing and has nearly a decade of business banking experience. He’s married with three kids. Bless your heart, sir. Two boys and one girl. Welcome, Alex.
Alex Sologoub: Thank you for having me, Erik.
Erik Wolf: Well, you’re so very welcome sir. So with all the financial degrees, this was obviously a pretty intentional career choice for you.
Alex Sologoub: Yes it was.
Erik Wolf: What got you interested in banking? What made you decide that banking was the career for you?
Alex Sologoub: Well I initially got a banking job as a teller at Wells Fargo. And the reason I got a job is because when I graduated from Metro State with a degree in finance the job market in 2003 wasn’t necessarily the best. And there was a branch of Wells Fargo that was hiring for teller opening position and I thought it was just a way to get into banking but obviously look for a different job opportunity from then on. And luckily I got into a division where I was basically on the same floor as the commercial banking regional manager and the teller branch manager basically came to the guy and said, “Hey this guy, he’s got a degree in finance, he’s one of our best working tellers, a very professional guy. Would you want to talk to him about commercial banking at some point?” So the guy interviewed me at Wells Fargo and he said, “Hey we like you. And also the fact that you’re doing your masters in finance while being a teller. While you’re doing your masters in finance at DU, we also find that very interesting and applaudable.” And so they said, “Why don’t we go ahead and help you get ahead in your career. And we don’t feel like it’s fair to keep you as a teller at the bank.” And so they helped me get immediately into a forward hire program. Out of about 100 applicants at Wells Fargo, I was selected with 1 of 10 people that got this opportunity to basically train to become a commercial banker at Wells.
Erik Wolf: Very cool. And so now you’ve been at Bank of the West since 2015, I think you told me?
Alex Sologoub: Yes I started with Bank of the West in February of 2015.
Erik Wolf: And so talk to me for a second about what you do there and about what you specialize in and what sorts of problems you like to solve for folks.
Alex Sologoub: Yes so Bank of the West, I kind of do the same thing that I was doing at Wells Fargo except I kind of got a different opportunity. So unlike Wells Fargo where I was given a small bunch of clients, a handful of clients, and I was told to grow that group of clients and get additional clients. At Bank of the West, they hired me to be the expansion relationship manager which basically my manager said, “This is the highest risk job, but it’s also the highest reward job.” And so they basically gave me no portfolio of clients when I started in 2015, but my manager said, “Hey you’re going to have our full backing and support and we’ll give you leads and we’ll help you find leads and you will be responsible to grow a full portfolio from zero to whatever number.
Erik Wolf: To awesome. From zero to awesome in just three-plus years.
Alex Sologoub: Yes it has actually been four, well three and a half, but it will be four great years at Bank of the West. I’ve succeeded four years in a row.
Erik Wolf: That’s awesome. So what’s something about business financing that you would say that most people don’t fully know or understand or realize?
Alex Sologoub: Well business finance. I work with a lot of times with the CFOs and controllers and the business owners and hardly ever go out and tell them how to run their business. The finance, their desire, their plans, their strategies. I have to see how it is aligned with our decision making at the bank for financing that plan or that acquisition or that real estate purchase. And then I tell them what from a banking standpoint if it makes sense and I don’t tell them that you guys are out of your mind. My job is to basically tell them yes or no and then basically I try to avoid putting any personal opinion into the conversation because I may come across as me telling them that they’re not pursuing the right strategy and I don’t want to burn the relationship with somebody and I may tell them this is not a good fit for us at the time. So when it comes to business financing again I can give them some of my personal opinions but I try to avoid criticizing or just making judgments about their plans or their desires to grow.
Erik Wolf: You say somebody else might think that you were insane for saying that but I’m on your side. That’s how you roll.
Alex Sologoub: Yes. Basically, I tell them, “Yes we support your desire to grow and do this business acquisition. But you know it’s just not a good fit for us at this time.” And that’s a more professional way of handling and saying no.
Erik Wolf: There you go. I like it. So business loans. What are the main things that you handle on a day to day basis for folks?
Alex Sologoub: So typically I do look for opportunities to help business owners with real estate financing needs. And the reason for that is because I work for a big company and every company, being a salesperson, my job is to produce a certain volume of transactions and lend a certain amount of money. And the fastest way to meet your quota and succeed obviously is to do real estate transactions because they’re typically larger in size than lines of credit. And so I either try to help business owners with refinancing their real estate loans, refinancing SBA real estate loans or actually help them purchase a building with the help of SBA financing. Our bank does a lot of SBA 7a 25-year fixed rates and we do acquire a lot of business by helping business owners get out of leasing a building and buying their own building.
Erik Wolf: And on the SBA side, not every bank can do that. Is that correct?
Alex Sologoub: Yeah not that many banks offer a 25-year fully amortizing loans because it basically becomes a burden on the balance sheet of the bank because it’s locking in a really low rate for 25 years like a home mortgage.
Erik Wolf: Gotcha. I’d love to hear, I’m sure you have several, a really great hero story or a case study something where maybe a client came to you in a really tough spot, you put on your banker cape and came to the rescue.
Alex Sologoub: I think the best example recently came when a business owner who is in his 70s, he wanted us to help him with refinancing his real estate debt. At the same time ensure that we would not foreclose on the building where he and his kids own a company. He said, “Alex if I die and I do not want you guys taking away this building from my kids because the company may not on its own be sufficient to pay you guys on your loan.” And I said that’s fine. So we built a custom clause that said that if you die and your business transition plan is presented to the bank indicating that all of the business assets that you’ve had, the building is being transferred to your kids. Given their experience, we are okay with not foreclosing on the building. So he really appreciated that because it was a very creative way of basically ensuring him that his legacy is going to go on, the company that he’s built for the past 20 years would be transitioned to his kids and we would not foreclose on the building.
Erik Wolf: That’s that’s pretty neat.
Alex Sologoub: Yeah and we do a lot of customized lending and what we do is we basically put in clauses, approved by our legal department, to basically make sure that our financing is in line with the long-term strategy of the clients.
Erik Wolf: That’s fantastic. I mean how often would you say that you do something with that level of customization?
Alex Sologoub: Quite often because you’ve got to be able to differentiate yourself in the market and quite often the way I’m able to win business is because we’re able to do something very customized in our loan documents and a lot of bankers they just do not want to put in the effort or the thought and we have a good legal department that basically tells me what I can or cannot do to modify the loan documents.
Erik Wolf: Very cool. So this is, as you know, the Trusted Advisor Podcast so I’m going to ask you to be a trusted advisor for just a moment. What’s the first thing that you would say that people should look for in picking their business bank. Obviously, there are a lot of banks and a lot of them here in Denver Metro will have you know a business banker in the office. What would be those top 1 or 2 things that you would say that you should go and ask that person before you sign up?
Alex Sologoub: So in the example that I brought in recently the guy said, “Alex I felt like you deserve the time and that I should spend time with you to explain to you exactly what I want because you made the effort of driving down to my office thirty minutes every time that I wanted your time. You didn’t just say hey let’s do a call. You were responsive. Whenever I left you a voice message you made the effort to get back to me within a day or two.” I think a business banker’s job really is to be responsive and do whatever it takes to move as efficiently as quickly as possible to accommodate the needs of their clients. I mean you’ve got to have a certain mentality. You’re a servant first. And that’s exactly what you get paid for. So take care of the client. I mean if the client is going to pick a banker, everybody has got a business banker at a bank, they just may not know about it at sometimes. But the reality is you want to work with somebody that is responsive and cares and how they prove that is different for different people. But for the most part business owners do appreciate somebody that’s responsive and cares and goes the extra distance of showing that. So building a relationship really means taking out somebody to lunch once a quarter, giving them a call sometimes and just see how is your business, and are we are you happy with our bank? I lot of times I just if I get a service call from a client, I will say, “Is there anything else we can to help you with? And are you really happy with our level of service?” And if they have to gripe, then you listen to that. But you got to make the effort of asking that question because you’ve got to show somehow that you care. You’ve got to show that.
Erik Wolf: Absolutely. And so assuming that people want your level of customer service, how can they get in touch with you.
Alex Sologoub: The best way to get ahold of me is my cell phone 303-204-6647 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Erik Wolf: Thank you so much, Alex, for joining us. We really appreciate it. Thanks to the folks listening to the Denver Executive Association Trusted Advisor Podcast and we will talk to you next time.