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A Message from Steve Bishop

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February 8, 2024 | Article | 5 min | Business Insights

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Minneapolis-St. Paul offers big-city opportunities, with a mid-city size maneuverability and lots of green space. Cost of living is more affordable than living on the coasts and diverse job opportunities are abundant.

Those advantages have attracted more Fortune 500 companies than other similar-sized cities.

“Even though we’re not that large of a city, we kind of fight above our weight in that respect,” said Steve Bishop, President and CEO of Minnesota Bank & Trust, a division of HTLF Bank.

The bank includes commercial business, industrial, commercial real estate and consumers among its clients.

MARKET ADVANTAGES

Bishop is optimistic about a strong job market with unemployment below 2 percent in the Twin Cities area, which is lower than the national rate. Healthcare and retail positions, along with manufacturing, highlight job opportunities.

Quote from Steve Bishop

“When you talk about the unemployment rates and jobs on a national level, that only gets accelerated at a local level,” said Bishop. “We all talk about our markets being competitive, but the Twin Cities are especially competitive. Everyday people and companies are looking to find good talent — like elsewhere in the nation, but even more so here.”

Bishop is also optimistic about inflation cooling off. If rates drop, that would spur lending activity.

“Certainly inflation is improving. It is the biggest indicator that many people find optimistic. Strong GDP (gross domestic product) growth remains steady,” he said.

MARKET CHALLENGES

Inflation, though slowing, still bites and stings.

“When rates were lower, some companies were lackadaisical about working capital and liquidity management,” Bishop said. “When everything was free, it made life easy.”

Businesses must pay greater attention to both working capital and liquidity to manage the economic cycle and come through when the economy rebounds.

Inventory levels expanded significantly during the pandemic due to supply-chain uncertainty, tying up cash. Companies now must work to reduce inflated inventories and interest expenses.

One risk inflation exacerbates is refinancing loans that originated with lower interest rates. When those come due, they’ll have much higher rates.

“Refinance risk is looming for both the consumer and the commercial side. If the Fed gets inflation in control and then we can steadily reduce rates back down, that would loosen things up for a lot of people and help the housing market as well,” he said.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Bishop emphasized customers should partner closely with their bank to optimize working capital and cash-flow management. This includes negotiating improved accounts receivable terms, extending accounts payable timelines and reducing excess inventory.

Effectively managing liquidity will reduce their need to borrow. It will improve their overall balance sheet and they can get some cash on hand — which they can invest in accounts with higher interest rates, he said.

Quote from Steve Bishop

“The easiest and most tangible thing that people can do right now would be focusing on the working capital management side and the liquidity management side,” Bishop said. “Maybe you save 1 or 2 percent. Those kinds of things had sort of gone by the wayside for the past few years and now have become much more common again.”

Customers can also work with their bankers to use financing strategies and products like an interest rate swap to lock in lower long-term interest rates.

“It provides the best of both worlds for everybody,” Bishop said.

“Any customer who had floating rate debt that they were able to fix with a swap has been saving money for two years now. They can still save upwards of 50 to 100 basis points on their debt — depending upon how much they want to lock in and how long they lock it in versus just having it floating right now,” he said.

HOW WE CAN HELP

The bank offers tools to help with liquidity management and fighting fraud. Bishop recommends customers use the Commercial Card, and other Treasury Management Solutions like Positive Pay to maximize their cash cycle and protect them from fraud.

Positive Pay allows customers to review account numbers, check amounts and payee names before the bank pays the check. Commercial Cards are still safer if customers carefully monitor charges and report fraud within the required window of time.

It’s smart to get Positive Pay before actually needing it.

“We only half-jokingly say you could have paid for Positive Pay for 20 years for what the loss is on one check,” Bishop said.

Recently, one customer was able to catch a $17,000 fraudulent check with Positive Pay.

It’s also recommended that customers don’t mail checks anymore.

“Just don’t do it. Don’t mail a check,” Bishop said.

A check is the most expensive method of paying for something anyway. It costs about $5.50 to generate and mail a check as opposed to paying electronically in a secure environment, he said.

With personal partnerships, expertise and solutions, we can guide customers through today’s evolving economic environment.

“We’re here to help,” Bishop said.

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