Director of Business Banking Sales & Support at Meridian, Shaun Adams sat down with us to share his insights on the different challenges that SME owners face financially and how Meridian can help overcome those challenges.
Shaun has had a 17-year career with Meridian with leadership roles in Retail and Commercial Banking and now oversees the Small Business Channel across Ontario.
In addition, Shaun is an active community volunteer with past associations with Habitat for Humanity Niagara, Greater Niagara Chamber of Commerce and is currently Vice President of the Board of Directors for Family and Children Services of Niagara.
Shaun is a passionate advocate for entrepreneurs and helping them grow their businesses and his territory covers Stoney Creek.
Why is the SME market so important to Meridian?
When small businesses succeed, it creates healthier communities – and that aligns with our own goals. Meridian started as a small business when a group of fruit farmers in the 1940s was having trouble getting loans. So there’s a small business entrepreneurial spirit in our DNA.
What does that look like to the SME clients you serve?
Remember, they’re not clients; they’re Members. We’re 100%-owned by them. They know we have their backs. We have a strong small business advisor network and work hard to understand our SMEs. We go to their place of business and learning what they need from us to help get to the next stage.
We have a program called Quick Start, which helps start-ups get financing in their first two years of operating. During this critical phase, they can use the money to buy equipment, grow inventory or add to their working capital.
Being entrepreneurial ourselves, we’re always looking to make life easier for SMEs. For instance, we are building a digital lending tool for small business that offers fast and simple online loan applications. We’re also working with a national accounting firm to launch a tool giving SMEs more visibility on their cash flow. It’s a business insight and decision-making tool.
Another project on the horizon is a business health check. We can leverage what we see with deposits and payables to give deeper advice about financial opportunities.
What other resources does Meridian offer SME owners?
We’re here to help beyond just a product or rate. Under our Good Sense platform, we provide a wide range of practical advice for SMEs, covering everything from risk management to business planning. Plus, we curate business literacy events to connect people. These are chances for entrepreneurs to learn from each other.
Our desire to help businesses includes helping their employees. So we’re partnering with a national benefits firm to roll out an employee assistance program. That supports a healthier, happier and more productive workforce.
SME owners face many challenges. What’s the biggest way Meridian can help?
For SMEs, everything is moving faster. Our role is to take a slice of their world – the banking and financing side – and give order to it. When we provide the best possible advice and solutions, SME owners can focus on the other key parts of their business.
At what stage should entrepreneurs start inquiring about financing options?
Entrepreneurs have a vision. Our goal is to help them realize it. Before discussing a loan, I’d ask about their objectives and strategy. Start with the need before the solution.
What’s the best financial advice you can give to SME owners?
Know what you don’t know. Success is about focusing on your strengths and outsourcing your weaknesses. That means hiring the people to fill the necessary skills and expertise, and also having the right advisory team. Tap into your financial institution, accountant and lawyer for advice on all sorts of business issues. If we can’t give you the answer, we may be able to connect you with the right resource.
What sets Meridian apart from other financial institutions?
We give consumers a viable choice beyond traditional banks. Our reason for being is different. As a credit union, we don’t have shareholders. We are 100 percent accountable to our members, and that business model shapes our approach to service. People are responding to what we call the Meridian difference.
We’re growing fast. We’ve doubled our revenue in the last five years. Meridian is now Ontario’s largest credit union and the third largest in Canada. Our assets under management are $20.6 billion. We have 91 branches across Ontario.
We also have a national footprint with the launch of motusbank this spring. That’s a way to take the Meridian banking experience beyond Ontario’s borders. We’re seeing fundamental changes in what people expect from their financial institutions, and how services are being delivered. Meridian has responded by developing a simple and intuitive digital platform.
No matter the channel or interaction, it’s about making banking feel good. That’s where we invest.
Meridian has a strong commitment to communities. Why is that important?
Our core mission is to help lives grow. That can happen through supporting local businesses, as well as the communities we serve. It’s a multi-pronged approach. We donate 4% of pre-tax earnings to community projects. A huge percentage of Meridian staff also participates in our employee giving program, well above the industry average. Our people see an opportunity to make a difference, not only for our Members but also for the community.
Throughout your career at Meridian, you’ve held several roles. How have they prepared you for your current role?
I’ll be with Meridian 18 years this summer and have spent most of that time serving business owners. I’ve gained exposure to the mindset of an entrepreneur and seen how businesses work best across industries. Now I can share those insights to help our people, and those they serve, to succeed.
At what point did you know that you wanted to go into banking?
It wasn’t by design. I was studying economics at Brock University, and working at The Bay. A co-worker had a daughter who worked at Meridian. That’s how I got in. I realized that I love playing a role in the success of other businesses, and love the community impact of banking. I’ve been fortunate to find my passion.