Kurt Raicevich understands the mind of a small business owner. Earlier in life, he operated his own drywall firm in Batavia, just east of Cincinnati.
He marketed his business. He priced his products and services. He paid the bills. He hauled the trash. And, of course, he installed the drywall.
“It was a lot of responsibility,” says Raicevich, who’s now senior vice president of retail banking at First Federal Lakewood. “Small business owners are ultimately responsible for the success or failure of their enterprises. They weigh in on every decision.”
With all that to worry about, the thought of applying for a business loan can seem daunting. That’s why First Federal Lakewood introduced its Business Express Loan, which allows small business owners to apply for a loan, learn if they’re approved and receive funds all within 24 hours.
“The Business Express Loan was designed and built for the small business owner, anyone with $50 million or less in revenue,” says Raicevich, who oversees the new program.
“One recurring theme we’ve heard from small businesses is the need for access to capital for operations or expansion,” Raicevich says. “But they don’t have a lot of time because engaged business owners are married to their companies 24/7, 365 days a year.”
“We recognize that they need access to capital as efficiently and quickly as possible,” Raicevich explains. “The Business Express Loans really meets those needs.”
Small firms with checking accounts at First Federal Lakewood, or those willing to open an account, can apply for a Business Express Loan if they’ve been in business for at least a year. They can borrow a minimum of $10,000 and up to $100,000 and can use the money for just about any business purpose, including day-to-day operations, expansions, renovations, supplies, furniture and even marketing.
More importantly, the loan application contains just a few questions and takes no more than five minutes to complete. Business owners can apply online or over the phone without leaving their offices if they don’t have time to visit one of First Federal Lakewood’s 18 branches.
A loan decision is made almost instantly. The decision is based on the business’s health and the owner’s personal credit. If the loan is approved, documents are sent and signed digitally. For existing First Federal Lakewood customers, the money is deposited into their checking accounts as soon as the next business day, sometimes sooner. It takes a day or two for new customers.
Business Express Loan is the first program of its kind in Ohio. Since it was rolled out in late October, First Federal Lakewood has approved about 70 Express Loans totaling more than $2.7 million.
“A lot of companies come to us for this loan because options are limited,” Raicevich reveals. “If they borrow using a credit card or some form of alternate lending, it could be harmful in the long run”
That’s because credit card interest rates are significantly higher than those offered through the Business Express Loan program, and rates can change over time. Interest rates for Business Express Loans are fixed, so there are no surprises.
It makes sense that First Federal Lakewood is the bank introducing the Business Express Loan to Ohio. As a mutual bank, owned by depositors, First Federal Lakewood is tightly connected to the community. In 2017, the bank loaned more than $75 million to local projects, including those by small firms.
Executives at First Federal Lakewood, first heard of the Express Loan program during a 2016 business conference. Eastern Bank in Boston, through a subsidiary called Eastern Laboratory Services Ltd., had developed the Business Express Loan software, which uses algorithms to determine quickly whether an applicant qualifies for a loan.
Eastern Bank created a new company, Numerated, to sell the software. First Federal Lakewood became an investor and was among the first three banks in the United States to offer Business Express Loans to small companies.
Raicevich was a natural choice to head the Express Loan program here. He came to First Federal Lakewood in 2014 after spending 20 years at a large bank, where he worked with small businesses.
Raicevich, when weighing a career change, eyed mutual banks because they invested in the communities around them.
“I was drawn emotionally to First Federal because of [its] community involvement and core values,” Raicevich says.
Raicevich is excited to share this opportunity with small business owners across Northeast Ohio, as it can be a game changer for them in helping to grow their businesses.
“At the end of the day, small business owners want ease and time, because
time is truly their most valuable
resource,”he says. “We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to help our customers serve theirs.”