Five Questions With: William C. Tsonos

Senior vice president and director of commercial banking for Bank Rhode Island talks about BizHub Web portal. More

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financial services

Five Questions With: William C. Tsonos

"Our goal is to continue to expand the site in an effort to provide information that is relevant and useful for business owners, so they will return on a regular basis."
Posted 3/4/14

William C. Tsonos is senior vice president and director of commercial banking for Bank Rhode Island. He is responsible for growing BankRI’s commercial loan portfolio while maintaining strong credit quality. He joined BankRI’s executive team in 2006.

His 23 years of experience in the financial services industry includes five years with Citizens Bank, where he was senior vice president for middle market lending.

Tsonos is on the investment board for city of Woonsocket and on the board of the Boys & Girls Club of Cumberland-Lincoln.

Tsonos has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Bryant University.

PBN: Bank Rhode Island launched its BankRIBizHub.com Web portal in early 2013, which seems to be a unique step in showcasing some of the Bank’s commercial clients. Banks don’t often publicly talk about their customers, so from that perspective, did BankRI get input from any commercial customers before developing this site?

TSONOS: BankRI received, and continues to receive, input on the BankRIBizHub.com site from various sources, including customers, the business community and our commercial lending teams. Although we treat our customer relationships with strict confidentiality, many of our customers were eager to share how BankRI positively impacted their business, as related to banking and financial solutions. In most cases, what we found from customers was that our commercial lending staff — where each member makes it a priority to understand individual businesses and their specific, sometimes unique, needs — is what sets us apart from other financial institutions.

PBN: What was the impetus for creating BizHub? Does it appear to be a trend in banking or did BankRI develop it based on its own research and input from clients or staff?

TSONOS: As a commercial bank, our lending teams felt it was important to have a site dedicated strictly to businesses and business issues. As a result, BankRIBizHub.com was created to serve as a central place for businesses to get banking, financial and other related information. With the initial launch, we chose to showcase new and existing customers, along with recent commercial lending transactions that feature our commercial lenders — the folks working with businesses on the ground floor. As we continue to develop the site, we will post relevant economic data and news on financial trends and provide links to articles of interest. We will also consider a guest blog and columns penned by industry experts.

PBN: What are the short-term and long-term goals for BizHub? What do you envision as far as its impact on BankRI and the businesses you showcase? Do you think it might offer some positive impact on Rhode Island’s sluggish economy?

TSONOS: Our goal is to continue to expand the site in an effort to provide information that is relevant and useful for business owners, so they will return on a regular basis. As the site’s traffic continues to grow, our featured customers will be showcased to a larger network of businesses, and we believe that will positively impact them. Over time, I see the potential for this to have a broader impact on the state’s economy.

PBN: Who will be maintaining and developing new features for BizHub and what will they be? How will businesses be selected for the online showcase? Do you think the bank will have an issue with too many business clients vying for that showcase spot?

TSONOS: I see BankRIBizHub.com continuing to evolve as the needs of the business community change. As the site develops and grows, we will continue to seek feedback from our customers regarding information that they would find useful on the site. At the same time, we will continue to highlight both new and long-time customers in a wide-range of industries – there’s truly a lot of great work being done in Rhode Island. I think the site will be considered a success if too many business clients are vying for a showcase spot – it’d be a nice problem to have.

PBN: The competition for commercial business is intense among banks in Rhode Island — all the banks want to increase their market share of a relatively limited pool of customers. Where does BankRI see itself in this competition and what other strategies are in place, in addition to the BankRIBizHub Web portal, to gain market share?

TSONOS: While competition is intense, BankRI continues to gain customers and market share based on its core business model. Our consistent approach to credit allowed us to lend during the 2008-2009 financial market crash while others did not. Our lending teams are comprised of highly-seasoned industry professionals who provide benchmark service levels while taking time to understand their customers and develop real relationships. And lastly, our decisions are made locally by management that is accessible to customers of all sizes. The BankRIBizHub Web portal will play a key role in communicating BankRI’s core strengths and services.

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