U.S. Bancorp (NYSE:USB) is already considered to be one of the best banks for small business. And, through a newly announced partnership with financial tech company Viewpost, the company's small business banking products may become even more attractive to customers.
U.S. Bank's small business banking
U.S. Bank is one of the United States' top small business banks, with about 1.3 million customers. The bank is one of the top small business administration, or SBA, lenders and provides a wide range of products and services to small businesses. In fact, even though it is a distant fifth place in the U.S. market in terms of assets and deposits after the "big four" banks, U.S. Bank is the third largest SBA lender.
However, according to Jeff Parker, Senior Vice President of Small Business and Strategy at U.S. Bank, not much has changed in the small business space in the past 30 years. For example, while mobile and online payments have become popular among consumers, a disproportionate amount of small businesses still rely on paper checks to pay vendors and to collect payments owed to them.
U.S. Bank is constantly looking to find solutions to its customers' "pain points," or the things that make their financial lives tougher. That's where the new partnership with Viewpost comes in.
What Viewpost brings to consumers
Viewpost's goal is to simplify invoices and payments and to make the process more efficient for small businesses.
The partnership will allow U.S. Bank's 1.3 million small business customers to link their bank accounts to the Viewpost network and better connect to their customers and vendors. The network allows customers to securely connect with any trading partner to send and receive electronic invoices and transfer payments.
In general, there are two reasons businesses and consumers adopt new technologies. Either the new solution is easier to use than its alternatives, or it saves users money. Viewpost does both.
The process simplifies most current business practices by allowing business owners to see when they can expect payment from customers, and allowing them to transfer and receive funds directly from their U.S. Bank accounts with one click from Viewpost's software.
And, it saves its users money. According to Max Eliscu, CEO of Viewpost, studies have shown that a check payment costs a business between $4 and $6. The fee to send a "check" payment through Viewpost is $0.50, less than the cost of just a stamp and an envelope. Over a year, this can easily add up to thousands in savings to a business.
How the partnership helps U.S. Bank
The savings are not limited to the customer, either. According to Eliscu, getting customers to embrace electronic check payments significantly cuts down on processing costs for the bank.
Also, I previously mentioned that U.S. Bank is one of the largest SBA lenders in the world, an area in which it would like to continue to grow. Well, data from Viewpost can help the bank lend more efficiently and effectively, as it lets the bank know more concrete details about a business' financial activities. This could allow U.S. Bank to comfortably expand its SBA lending operations while managing the risks involved.
U.S. Bank as an investment
At first, U.S. Bank might look to be a little expensive since it trades for a much higher multiple of its book value than its peers.
However, in the banking sector, you get what you pay for. U.S. Bank has an excellent history of solid risk management and expense control. In fact, during the financial crisis, the company never had a quarter in which it lost money, a rarity among American banks.
The bank is doing a great job of growing its core businesses, and the latest earnings report revealed year-over-year loan growth of 6.3%, deposit growth of 7.4%, and a lower charge-off rate.
For investors, this translates to sector-leading performance, including a return on equity of 14.5% and an efficiency ratio of 52.4%. For comparison, Wells Fargo, which is considered a rock-solid bank, produced ROE of 13.1% and operated at an efficiency ratio of 57.7% (lower is better).
The Viewpost partnership is yet another example of how U.S. Bank strives to create the best banking experience for its customers. U.S. Bank's Consumer and Small Business Banking segment produces 38% of the bank's total revenue, so this effort to further improve its appeal to small business customers could definitely pay off -- and help U.S. Bank continue to produce impressive returns for its shareholders. U.S. Bank's customer-centered business model has paid off for decades, and should continue to pay off for decades to come.