As a financial professional, I am frequently asked by my client to recommend financial institutions for their needs. In the past, I have been very supportive of Bank of the West (BOW), but no longer.
I contacted BOW concerning one of my clients who was looking for a local bank with whom to do business. This client is a multi-million dollar corporation headed up by a 34-year-old female president. She was looking for a local bank that could offer them a line of credit as well as the other banking services they required.
Bank of the West (know known as WestStar) advertises themselves as particularly interested in helping local businesses and they had assisted a variety of my clients in the past. Unfortunately, it seems they are only interested in doing business with men at the helm.
My client was turned down because "the Equity doesn't add up" which, in my experience as a financial professional of more than 30 years and multiple Master's degrees in the field, is simply not possible. One cannot have equity that 'doesn't add up' since the equity is, by definition, the result of all the activity of the business.
Therefore, one need only look at the activity to determine any changes in equity.
It is obvious to these seasoned financial eyes that the 'reason' was fabricated because it makes no sense and, in this world of computerized accounting, is, frankly, impossible.
Worse, when I attempted to speak to the reviewer who was the head of the loan department and a Board Member, he was borderline abusive about my client - implying fraud but not outright making the accusation - and personally insulting to me which was highly unprofessional.
I have a variety of clients who were approved for larger loans with much less income/profit and who provided less-accurate financial information on their businesses to the bank. I know this because I saw everything they submitted when they brought it in for my review after the fact.
This business provided much more information that was more accurate and professional because I prepared it for her to take to the bank. Her annual growth has been astonishing, her income exceeds that of every other business I sent to BOW but one and her profit margin is higher than most. Her income and assets to debt ratio are both better than the majority of the businesses that were approved and, in fact, her debt base is lower than all of them. These are the very things looked at by financial institutions in the loan approval process. So, since every one of the factors used to evaluate loans was better, why was she not approved like all the other businesses? What is the difference?
Since they refuse to provide a valid financial reason for the rejection, I have no choice but to assume that the real problem was that the management/ownership of the business was not to their liking. Unfortunately, the only difference between the management of the approved companies and this one is that the other businesses have men at the helm.
Which then begs the question of gender bias and prejudice. Obviously, I cannot say for certain this is the case, but the circumstances certainly lead this educated and experienced professional to believe that it could be.
Either way, i shall not be recommending this financial institution to any of my future clients. I require an institution that is trustworthy, consistent and that isn't going to dissemble when asked a valid question.
Regardless of their real reasons for refusal of my client's loan, at the very least, Bank of the West is none of these.
The online banking is great. Bill paying and in bank transfers are easy and fast. I don't know what it is like to work for the bank, there is always new tellers.
Between the stellar customer service, easy to use online banking and low fees Bank of the West is awesome. After suffering through the subhuman experience of banking with big guys like Wells and BofA I am very appreciative of the consistently high level output by a relatively small institution. I moved back east ten years ago but their online banking is so good that I saw no reason to close my account even though the closest location to me is 2000 miles away. Highly recommended.
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