Chris Misamore: SunTrust has Pulse on Where the South Georgia Market is Headed

Kim Wade

Tuesday, July 25th, 2017

According to Chris Misamore, South Georgia market president at SunTrust Bank, it’s the million-dollar question: What is the market going to do?

“We have 90-plus commercial clients in our portfolio and we interact with them weekly,” he says. “They all want to know, ‘What is the market going to do?’”

While no one can predict exactly what the market might do, at SunTrust, our analysts in our investment banking division provide insight so we can then offer some perspective to our clients about their different industries. I don’t know of a lot of other institutions that make this information available to commercial and small business clients.”

Keeping tabs on the market has always been important to SunTrust, which is why they perform an annual Business Pulse Survey. According to the most recent report, 75 percent of middle market and small business leaders feel their business outlook is strong. 

Misamore, a native of Macon, says they conduct this survey every year to help them better understand the mindset of business owners within their communities—of course, he’s specifically looking at the South Georgia market, which he refers to as “the agriculture belt” of the state.

“With agriculture being the largest resource for our economy in the state of Georgia – and us being in the agriculture belt – everything is tied to this industry,” he says. “In the last five years, agriculture-related businesses have been in a holding pattern. They have been trying to make ends meet so they can seek out new business and manage existing business.”

“With this new optimism businesses are looking to expand, and we find the best way to serve our clients is to have industry specialists so that we can offer them the expertise unique to their business. We have a dedicated team focused on ag-related specialties as well as long-term care, ports and logistics, health care and other areas to help the businesses in our specific communities.”

In fact, Misamore adds that SunTrust has an agriculture business specialist on site and together they have been able to work with clients to identify more opportunities for these business owners to expand and grow. 

“And that’s fun. That’s what being a banker is all about. We can offer expertise and be a partner with them—in other words we’re ‘business consultants.’”

Additionally, Misamore notes 75 percent of mid-market and small businesses believe they have access to the critical capital needed. They also have high expectations for health care and tax reform, regulatory changes and infrastructure spending to stimulate growth and help free up capital for investments in new partnerships and product development. 

While freeing up capital is important, Misamore says that protecting those assets is just as important as creating them.  

“What we are seeing a lot more of—especially in South Georgia—is a big emphasis on fraud protection. That’s a major topic, especially from a business standpoint because it can take upwards of six to eight months before fraud is detected. 

“A lot of business owners are looking to us to help them implement electronic strategies for better fraud protection. We offer services and consultations on how to better protect your business from fraud.”

One main way Misamore and his team help clients with fraud detection is offering help with setting up and protecting electronification of payments made by businesses either to clients or their employees.

“We are helping businesses move away from providing paper checks because paper payments allow you to put out your routing number and account number, which can be intercepted.”

He adds that electronification also helps a business with cash flow by speeding up payments and keeping instant track of your capital. 

“From an accounts receivable standpoint, electronification is helping with cash flow—and that all goes back to the survey where we show that businesses want to get better control of their cash flow so they can grow their companies.”

While advanced business surveys and solutions for electronification of a company’s cash flow may seem like priorities for larger, big city-based financial institutions, Misamore says those types of high-end business solutions have always been a part of SunTrust’s DNA.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize the broad solutions we offer. We are a preferred lender with the Small Business Administration and we work directly with them. There are new market tax credits and that is a huge area for us that, if applicable, we can recommend to South Georgia businesses. Offering a business tax benefits is a big plus for attracting and bringing in new business to South Georgia.

“At SunTrust, we’re able to offer the attention of a smaller-bank and the capabilities of a much larger bank. This allows us to offer sophisticated solutions that are very client centered to companies of all sizes that would not normally have access to this level of expertise.”