Hasan Ali works out of Bristol County Savings Bank’s new loan office at 300 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick, which opened in September. As senior vice president of commercial lending, he is responsible for managing the bank’s Rhode Island lending team and its development and management of commercial loan relationships in Rhode Island. Prior to his current position, he was vice president of commercial lending for the bank.
Previously, Ali held positions with Santander Bank, including market manager and team leader of business banking in Boston, vice president and relationship manager – business banking in Providence, and small-business relationship manager, also in Providence. He also worked as a commercial lender for Ocean Capital, a division of Home Loan Investment Bank, and as a senior loan officer with Home Loan Investment Bank, both in Warwick.
A resident of North Kingstown, Ali is a board member of the Ocean State Business Development Authority in Providence. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Rhode Island.
PBN: What financial services are available out of the Warwick office?
ALI: At present, our Warwick office offers commercial and residential lending. On the commercial side, Bristol County Savings Bank can handle loans up to $26 million and is focused on small-business, commercial and industrial, and commercial real estate lending. That means we can offer businesses a full spectrum of financing options, including lines of credit for working capital, term loans for purchasing equipment, and commercial mortgages to acquire, construct, or refinance real estate.
I’d note that the bank was recently named Rhode Island SBA [U.S. Small Business Administration] 7a [loan program] Dollar Volume Lender of the Year for 2018, which demonstrates our commitment to supporting the Ocean State’s small-business community. With that in mind, our expansion into Warwick will allow us to build on the prior year and reach more of Rhode Island’s businesses.
Regarding residential lending, the bank offers a variety of loan programs, including those for first-time homebuyers, single-close construction loans, as well as home equity lines and loans.
PBN: What advantages does the Warwick location offer customers?
ALI: Our Warwick loan office puts experienced lenders close to our business customers in central and southern Rhode Island, as well as allows us to become more involved in the local communities. As a mutual bank, our customers and the community are essentially our stakeholders. Therefore, the bank is vested in giving back to the communities we serve, as well as supporting local consumers and businesses with their financing needs.
As we continue to bring our community banking culture to Warwick and central Rhode Island, the community we serve will keep growing.
PBN: What trends are you seeing in commercial lending and home mortgages?
ALI: In commercial lending, I find business owners are seeking an experienced financial partner that adds value to the relationship. It is becoming increasingly important for lenders to offer customized solutions for business clients and have a holistic understanding of the customers’ needs that go beyond lending. I believe businesses prefer a single point of contact for their entire banking relationship, which includes commercial banking and deposit-related services. The commercial lender would typically be that point person.
In the small-business lending space, I see a trend toward the need for convenience with quick decision-making and turnaround times for loans. As technology advances and we see the next generation of business owners, I believe this will become an expectation. In understanding this small-business need, Bristol County Savings Bank will be launching online express business loans up to $100,000, allowing business owners to apply and sign for loans online via their mobile device. This new program will provide a streamlined process with quick decisions on loans.
With regard to home mortgages, the bank sees homeownership in Rhode Island remaining strong, with new housing starts up and a robust market for the resale of existing homes. Our residential construction and purchase money products tie in nicely with the needs of homeowners in our community.
PBN: What do you gather about the direction of Rhode Island’s economy from what you’ve been witnessing at the Warwick location?
ALI: Overall, I am optimistic on the direction of the Rhode Island economy, but there is always room to improve. With Warwick’s central location and second-largest population in the state, we see a lot of activity and, from my point of view, 2018 appears to have been a good year for many businesses. I’ve seen an increase in capital expenditures by manufacturers and there appears to be growing [business] startup activity. Construction has picked up a good deal, and I believe bank financing is more readily available for small projects than in years past.
Driving through Providence, you notice the changing landscape as a number of projects have broken ground in the past couple years and our local colleges and universities are driving several new developments. With that said, some key challenges for businesses remain, including navigating regulation and access to an educated, skilled workforce. Given our proximity to Boston, preventing attrition of our young professionals and college graduates will be something the state has to continue to focus on going forward.
PBN: What do you see as a looming challenge in the lending industry?
ALI: I believe an aging population of knowledgeable lenders combined with the lack of adequate training for the next generation of lenders is a significant challenge facing our industry. It will become increasingly important for banks to invest in comprehensive credit training programs now to counter a potential knowledge drain in the industry as tenured professionals exit the workforce in coming years.
We are already beginning to see a shortage of experienced lenders across the industry and a high degree of employee turnover as banks constantly vie for lenders, specifically within the small and midsize enterprise space. I believe community banks like us will fill this void, as many seasoned lenders have moved to local banks that have been more successful at retaining talent. Community banks place significant importance on having knowledgeable, credible lenders that are, in many cases, the face of the organization and have the greatest impact on the customer experience.
Scott Blake is PBN staff writer. Email him at Blake@PBN.com.