Bank of America thinks small - i.e., small business

Bank of America has upped its game in the small business arena.

Over the past two years the Charlotte-based bank, the nation’s second-largest bank by assets, has added 25 small business bankers across North Carolina — including seven in the Triangle — who are intent on working with small business owners at their workplace.

“We’re listening to our clients,” said Bill Gibson, who heads BofA’s small business banking in North Carolina. “They tell us they want expertise in the field. So rather than a small business owner going to the banking center, we’re bringing that expertise to them.”

The strategy appears to be paying off. Last year the bank extended more than $260 million in new credit to North Carolina small businesses, up 14 percent over 2012. For BofA, a small business has less than $5 million in annual revenue.

“I’m definitely seeing a renewed optimism, where more (small business owners) are currently exploring financing opportunities,” said Joseph Ambrosino, a small business banker based in Cary.

But making loans to small businesses is just part of the equation.

Ambrosino said he and his colleagues are focused on a “holistic approach” that calls for “listening to the clients’ needs and trying to arrange products and services that can have a direct impact” on their client’s business.

That’s important because the complexities of running a small business are on an upward trend. For example, the exponential growth of electronic payments in recent years has complicated the movement of money.

“There are lots of options,” Gibson said. “So our job is to help that business owner figure out what’s the best way to maximize cash flow.”

Gibson said that “about two-thirds of business owners tell us that they aren’t financially savvy. They are really good at what they do, from a business perspective, but they aren’t financially savvy. They need that expertise.”