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Citizens Bank Business Loans Review

Founded in 1828 as High Street Bank, Citizens Financial Group spent several years under the stewardship of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). In the process, they grew through a series of strategic acquisitions from a local bank serving Rhode Island to a regional concern that maintains a footprint from New Hampshire to as far west as Michigan, and as far south as Maryland. During that time, they have diversified their offerings to encompass not only consumer banking, but also lending for businesses of all sizes. An SBA Preferred Lender, Citizens consistently places in the top 100 for the number of SBA loans disbursed per year.

Citizens Bank Review
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Loans Offered

Business Mortgages

A business mortgage offers a longer loan term of five to ten years, with fixed principal plus interest payments. Loans can be amortized over a period of 5 to 25 years. The loan maximum is $500,000, and it can be especially useful in refinancing business expenses.

Term Loans

Term loans may be fixed or variable-rate loans. The application process is simplified, and there are no annual fees.

Lines of Credit

Lines of credit require a Citizens Bank account. They're intended as a longer-term revolving credit option designed to afford businesses the ability to respond to cyclical or seasonal changes in demand.

Business Flex Loans

Business Flex loans are six-month revolving credit loans up to $150,000 for smaller purchases, including computers, small machinery, and business improvements. The larger ($150,000 to $500,000) 12-month Equipment Flex loan is for larger assets, such as equipment purchases in volume, heavy equipment, or fixed machinery.

Business Credit Cards

Two credit cards (Everyday Points MasterCard and Business Platinum MasterCard) afford small businesses easy access to credit, while accessCard Command allows business owners to monitor and control employee spending and business expenses.

SBA Loans

Citizens is a Preferred SBA Lender, meaning that the application process is easier and quicker. They offer SBA Express, SBA 7(a) and SBA 504 loans, which cover a wide range of business needs.

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Who Qualifies, and How to Apply

Qualifications and application processes can vary from one loan type to the next (especially in the case of SBA loans, which have requirements and restrictions not found on many other loans).

However, the application process is generally quick and painless as long as your business has its ducks in a row. That means having your, and your partners', financials in order, having an airtight business plan, having excellent credit, having no liens or legal judgments outstanding against your business, and being able to show the use to which the loan will be put.

When in doubt, speak to a representative; after all, missing or incomplete information can unnecessarily lengthen the process.

Other Services Offered

Citizens Financial Group offers an array of support services to its small business customers to provide assistance that goes beyond simple lending. These include collection services, payroll services, POS and online payment gateways, business reporting, investment assistance, cash flow management, employee benefits, custom credit card and loyalty card programs, and credit/debit card processing.

Case Study: Skirt

Like many people, entrepreneur Maureen Conallen-Doran's priorities shifted after 9/11. After the attacks, the Fordham alum decided to leave behind her retail management job in New York City and return to her hometown to strike out on her own. Her vision was to open a boutique that brought the benefits of personal fashion stylists to everyday people. While cobbling together a series of SBA microloans (and some decorating help from family) were enough to get the doors open, they weren't quite enough to realize Maureen's dream of growing the business beyond its first location.

With a solid business plan and a proven track record in hand, she secured an SBA loan from Citizens. Skirt was able to expand from its initial boutique in Bryn Mawr to open new locations in Rittenhouse (Philadelphia) and Stone Harbor, New Jersey. While her keen eye for fashion and sound business sense played no small part in her success, Maureen credits her Citizens-issued loan for helping her business to reach its full potential.

Conclusion

While Citizens Financial Group is a relative upstart, only arriving on the scene as a regional player in recent years, that should not be viewed as a disadvantage. Their expansion has been methodical, and by all appearances, they've taken care to retain much of the feel of a local bank -- including the local knowledge and connections that characterize smaller institutions -- while matching that ethos to the kind of financial resources typically provided by a much larger bank.

While their consumer business and their lending to much larger businesses tends to get most of the press, small businesses in the areas served by Citizens would do well to consider them as a first choice for their lending needs.