Robin Roberts took a seat under some bright lights and the video cameras started rolling.
Roberts, the president of Pikes Peak National Bank, talked about the thing she loves most: community banks’ relationship with small businesses.
Community banks are small businesses themselves, she said, so they know the challenges and the needs that come with the territory.
“I meet with business owners in their business,” Roberts said. “They are proud of their business. They took a risk — everything is on the line.”
Community banks are the focus of an upcoming edition of “In View,” a documentary-style series hosted by talk-show veteran Larry King. The program airs on the Discovery and Bravo channels and covers such topics as education, medicine, technology and business.
Pikes Peak National Bank was chosen for the show to represent the Western states. A film crew interviewed Roberts and two Colorado Springs small businesses — Springs in Bloom and Rocky Top Resources — early this month. A date for the show’s airing has not been set.
The segment is expected to center on how community banks have remained important lenders to small businesses through the economic recovery. Across the state, there are 94 locally owned and operated commercial bank charters, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
Community banks are not necessarily defined by size, but rather by focus, said Barbara Walker, Independent Bankers of Colorado CEO. Community banks are not tied to national bank chains.
“Community banks used to be easier to define — they were locally owned and operated, period,” Walker said. “But with the change in interstate rules and branching, you can cross state lines.”
Still, by her count, only 20 percent of the commercial banks chartered to do business in Colorado have some degree of out-of-state ownership.
“It still shakes down to locally owned,” she said. “It doesn’t change the nature of the community bank — they are not Wall Street banks. Decisions are made locally.”
Community banks have weathered a rough stretch of years since the financial crisis of 2007-2008. In 2010, a series of banking regulations, known as the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, were rolled out in an effort to keep history from repeating itself.
Experts said the Dodd-Frank financial reforms were aimed at the larger banking institutions, not the community banks. But a September 2012 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office said it still is too soon to determine the full impact of Dodd-Frank on community banks.
However, the GAO report said that while the number of community banks has declined in recent years, they have remained important lenders to small businesses. About 20 percent of lending by community banks goes to small businesses, compared with 5 percent by larger banks, the GAO report said.
The combination of additional regulations and a sputtering economy forced community banks to evolve, Roberts said.
“Pre-recession, we were trying to be all things to all people,” Roberts added.
Now, community banks have narrowed their focus to the area of their strengths. Pikes Peak National Bank turned its attention to small businesses, a population the bank thought was underserved.
“We developed a niche with small business — typically those businesses with revenue under $2 million,” Roberts said. “They are not a target customer for larger banks.”
Community banks seem to have more flexibility, said Jared Martin, Rocky Top Resources manager. His wood recycling and landscape supply center is a seasonal business with its busy time from March to November. When he explained his business cycle to Pikes Peak National Bank, the banker understood, he said.
“They came up with a seasonal payment plan without us asking,” he said. “That in itself showed they were truly listening and understood how our cash flow worked. . . . It wasn’t just, send us your financials and see if it fits in a puzzle. They came to get to know us — see our vision and what we were doing.”
Tanya Anderson worked in high tech for 13 years. When the company downsized in 2010, she saw it as an opportunity to realize a longtime dream of owning a business. Springs in Bloom flower shop was on the market.
She ran the numbers. She had collateral, a large down payment and what she believed was a solid business plan. She took the plan to her bank, where she had been banking for more than 20 years.
“I went in and the man who did the SBA loans looked at me and said, ‘Oh, that’s nice, are you married? How do you expect to do this without a husband?”
Anderson felt the banker had not heard a word she said. She took her plan to a community bank.
Anderson secured a loan with Pikes Peak National Bank, and Springs in Bloom is growing, she said. In addition to the loan, the bank promoted her business in its holiday mailer, she said.
“They feel like a partner,” she said. “The biggest thing I see is that the community bank is vested in our city.”
Roberts, who is a volunteer consultant at the Small Business Development Center, said it means something to her for the bank to partner with small businesses, which in turn means something to the community through jobs and economic contributions.
“In order to survive in this competitive environment, the bank has to remain relevant, we need to provide value,” she said. “We want to be part of their business.”
Pikes Peak National Bank sponsors a Saturday KRDO radio show, “Saturday Business Magazine,” with Roberts and co-host Ted Robertson, of RCN Group. Local business is all they talk about.
Things are starting to shake up in the small-business world, Roberts said. Already for 2013, she is seeing movement with more small businesses looking to grow. Pikes Peak National Bank has about $10 million in loans in the pipeline — a quarter of the bank’s $36 million loan portfolio, she said.
“These little businesses mean a lot to the community in terms of infrastructure and taxes,” Roberts said.
“For our little bank to have $10 million in the pipeline, means that there are other banks with even more — it’s great for our community.”
And soon the rest of the country will have a chance to see and hear that story.