Yes indeed, I love my banker

   This is a column about banks. When I sat down to begin writing, it reminded me of my debut column many moons ago in which I blasted banks and bankers for their insensitive, plodding ways.
   I had written the column long before it ever appeared in the paper, and it so happened I had an appointment that very same week with my banker, Jack, who does not live in Marin and is not an IJ reader.
  As always, I needed financing. I sat down across the table from Jack and outlined my request.
  He listened carefully, making notes, and then sat back, hands behind his head. So, he said casually, "I see youíre a columnist now."
   It had never crossed my mind that a San Francisco banker who lived in the East Bay would see my column.
   Changing gears, I got ready for a pleasant discussion on my new part-time career. Then, to my horror, I remembered the subject of the column was the frustrations of dealing with banks. Oops.
   I looked sheepishly at Jack, who was acting rather smug. And Iíll never forget his only comment on my new career: "Bad Timing."
   Even though I didnít get the loan that morning, I learned a couple of valuable lessons: (1) the IJ gets around, and (2) I had better learn to love bankers, at least in print. 
   I especially need to love my banker lately, since I have a $100,000 revolving line of credit that came up for renewal last month.
   I should clarify by noting that I was the one who said it came up for renewal. Jack said it became due. And therein lies the problem Ė a simple case of semantics.
   A line of credit, in my mind, is very different from a term loan. When the due dates rolls around, which is usually at the end of a 12-month period, the bank should check to see if Iím still in business, and if so, gleefully give me another 12 months.
   Jack doesnít see it that way, which explains why Jack is a big honcho at the bank. It also explains why every loan Iíve ever made to a friend or relative has gone uncollected.
   A line of credit is generally designed for cyclical businesses, where extra cash is needed to increase inventory for a particular season. Itís called a revolving line of credit because the borrower theoretically pays it down when the inventory is sold, and then repeats the process as necessary Ė drawing up, then paying down.
   Perhaps I made Jack a little nervous when I drew the entire $100,000 about an hour or so after signing the loan papers. By the end of the 12-month period, I had paid down, letís see. . Yep, absolutely nothing.
   Fortunately, Jack never required me to clear the line for 30 days in order to have it renewed, which is a requirement on many business credit lines. Nevertheless, he did expect a little movement. "Thatís why itís called a revolving line of credit," he said, as patiently as possible. "Except yours is not revolving."
   "Itíll revolve," I promised. "My cycleís just a little longer than most businesses. This 12-month stuff is for amateurs. Iím on a three-year plan."
   He wasnít impressed. "The line is due. Iíll see what I can do about a renewal, but the bank is not keen about extending evergreen financing."
   Evergreen financing, I was told, is a bankersí term for interest-only loans to deadbeats like me who never get around to paying back any of the principal. They wanted some leaves back, and I wasnít about to drop.
   Jack sighed heavily. "Send me your financial statements for the last quarter. We have to do something fast."
   I liked the sound of that. Renewing the line would be much faster than going through the lengthy and weary process of default. Unfortunately, because of some turnover problems in my bookkeeping department, I had no financial statements to give him. That did not make him very happy.
   "Would it help if I told you business is really great?" I asked. "Weíre really doing well."
   For some reason bankers never rely on words. He steadfastly refused to renew the line until he could review my overall financial condition.
   In a couple of weeks, Iíll be able to get him the statements, and in all likelihood, heíll extend my line of credit.
   I admire his demands for documentation. In fact, I admire everything about Jack. I love Jack. Heís a wonderful guy. Jack? Jack? Are you there, Jack? Hello, Jack?
 

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