It takes a steady hand and vision to accomplish all that Greg DuFour and Camden National Bank brought about in 2015. The bank completed a merger with The Bank of Maine, (which was acquired by Camden’s parent company, Camden National Corporation) in October, and unrolled a new look and new logo. Based on its commitment to community and volume of loans, the bank was named (for the sixth year in a row!) “Financial Institution of the Year” by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) and donated a total of $20,000 to more than 30 homeless shelters across the state to help raise awareness around the issue of homelessness in Maine.
Amidst all of that the bank stepped up to a lead position as the Portland Regional Sponsor of the Top Gun program, donating $30,000 to support the program over the next three years starting in 2016. (Yay Camden!)
Given all of this, we naturally wanted to sit down and have a chat with Camden’s CEO and President, Greg DuFour about how enterpreneurs will benefit from the changes and and what a founder needs to think about when looking for financing.
Q. Camden expanded a great deal in 2015 with its acquisition of The Bank of Maine bringing it into more communities across the state. In what ways have you seen that benefit Maine Entrepreneurs?
A. I’m excited about how our acquisition of The Bank of Maine will help Maine entrepreneurs and innovators turn inspiration into thriving businesses. Part of our strategic focus is to deepen our already strong commitment to Maine’s businesses. The acquisition allows us to leverage our combined resources to serve more businesses through expanded locations and greater resources. More importantly, we recognize we need to continuously develop new products and services for businesses, especially entrepreneurs who provide the spark to Maine’s economy. This will result in developing systems, processes and training our staff to help make access to capital easier and more convenient to entrepreneurs, helping with cash management related services and, equally as important, to have knowledgeable bankers in our local markets who can serve as financial partners. In many ways, financial institutions need to grow in order to keep pace with the demands of entrepreneurs but also keep in mind the best products and services have to be delivered locally through experienced people.
Q. What does a Maine business that you want to work with look like?
A. We seek to work with all types of businesses in all industries in Maine. I believe one of our economic strengths in Maine is that we have a very broad and diverse business base so at Camden National we take a very inclusive view of who we like working with. We work with some very successful, large organizations that have national and international reputations while, at the same time, we work with others that may be focused on serving people right in their community. Some have been owned by the same family for multiple generations while others are start-ups. In all cases, we look for commitment, passion and a positive attitude in the people we do business with.
Q. What is the most important thing about Camden National Bank that most people do not know that they should?
A. Camden National Bank is firmly rooted here in Maine, with a 140-year history of local decision-making and personal one-on-one service. We pride ourselves on knowing our customers – but also knowing the latest trends and opportunities in banking and business. We’re local and we have a lot more in common with small businesses than we do with big business. While we do have over 65 locations now in three States and $3.7 billion of assets, in the financial world we are still considered a small company. Like a lot of small businesses, we can still trace our roots back to our founding by six people in the backroom of the Five and Dime in Camden, and we’re proud of those humble beginnings. Because of this we share many of the same challenges and worries as some of our smallest business customers. I feel this helps us understand our customers when they come in for help or to share their own successes.
Q. What are some of the best ways for entrepreneurs to approach a bank?
A. Two things an entrepreneur should remember about a bank is we’re dealing with other people’s money and we’re risk managers. Our source for lending money are deposits from our customers, debt that we’ll also take on as well as our own capital. We look at things in terms of risk and reward, and because we have a fiduciary and regulatory duty to protect depositors, we need to understand what risks we’re taking and balance those against the rewards. What this means for an entrepreneur is the better we understand your business and strategies, the easier it is for us to make decisions and design a lending program that is right for your business.
A well thought out and detailed business plan allows us to understand not only your business but also the associated risks. It also lets us start to think in terms of how we can help --- become a partner --- versus just a transaction. Part of that plan, especially for entrepreneurs is to understand what you want. Just the question of understanding do you want to maintain total ownership and control of your business versus seeking partners will help determine various funding and capital options for you.
Additionally, we understand there are a variety of loan programs available to entrepreneurs. We help them navigate through guarantee programs from organizations such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) and Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). As a lending partner, these type of programs helps us mitigate risk and be able to say yes more often which helps more borrowers get the financing they need.
Remember the typical banker has helped many businesses and they too are great resources to help you develop a strong business plan.
Q. What surprises you most about your job?
A. I’m constantly surprised by how my position with Camden National Bank lets me help people. Within a course of a week, I may discuss financing with a customer to help their business grow, meet with one of our wealth managers and a customer as they decide how to invest proceeds of a sale of a family business, discuss career development options with an employee and then attend a board meeting of a community organization. I’m allowed this diverse opportunity because we have the financial strength and banking acumen to take our customers, employees, commercial clients and communities anywhere they need to go.