How to Prepare for Your First Visit With a Banker

Series: Questions & Answers

27 November 2018

Question of the week

How to Prepare for Your First Visit With a Banker


The negotiation of a first loan with a financial institution is one of the decisive moments in an entrepreneur’s career. Manaf Bouchentouf, executive director and head of customized support in the department of entrepreneurship, business takeover, and family businesses at HEC Montréal, tells us everything we need to know about this inevitable meeting.

Use the tools available

Above all, when an entrepreneur sits down with a banker for the first time, he should not only look at him as a lender, but as a financial advisor as well. Financial institutions offer essential tools that are adapted to go above and beyond the loan process. For example, a banker can suggest a strategy in order to minimize the risk of fluctuating rates during an international transaction. From the earliest stages of the project, the advisor provides information on industry standards and practices to help the aspiring entrepreneur make initial decisions that will lead him down the right path.

Define the business model

The entrepreneur must also keep in mind that the banker is not a private lender. He will certainly have expectations along the way, and potentially have a different approach than other players who finance business projects. Generally, anyone who is solicited for financing by the entrepreneur wants to understand the recipe, which we can also refer to as business model. We are not yet talking about a business plan at this stage. We are only talking about our product, solution or service. Who are we offering it to and how are we producing and selling it? What material and human resources are required for the project? More globally, the entrepreneur must know the revenue model: how does it generate profit and what are the main expenses? In general, this is the information that the banker expects from a first discussion and it is crucial that the questions are answered very clearly. To summarize, this first step allows for an initial discussion and ensures comprehension of the way to generate wealth. Once the recipe is established, le business plan becomes a communication tool.

Manage expectations

Then, it’s important to understand the banker’s expectations, in the short term and in the long term. He will not hold the same position in regards to risk. Therefore, a banker will make sure there is some kind of guarantee in the early stages of the project. There are certain elements that can reduce the requirements of the guarantee. For example, an entrepreneur who already has clients and revenues demonstrates his ability to repay the loan, and more importantly, generate even more revenue, which means growth.

Tell your project’s story

Your first contact with a banker is usually a conversation, as with any other person you will encounter in the business start-up process. So, we start with a story. We explain the logic behind our project, we show that it is rational and relevant, that it meets a demand. Failure to demonstrate that your business idea responds to a demand is the number one reason you won’t get a loan for young entrepreneurs. In a nutshell, we present the project to the financial institution, we define the recipe and then we explain the next steps: “I got my first 100 customers, now let me show you how I’ll get the next thousand!”


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Executive director and head of customized support in the department of entrepreneurship, business takeover, and family businesses at HEC Montréal

Manaf Bouchentouf is Executive Director in charge of business support services for HEC Montréal’s Entrepreneurship, Entrepreneurial Acquisition and Business Families Hub. In this capacity, he set up and currently oversees the Accélérateur Banque Nationale – HEC Montréal and HEC Montréal’s entrePrism, an innovative incubator designed to support entrepreneurs, especially from cultural communities.

He is also a business model design, project management and value creation coach and instructor and provides targeted training in entrepreneurship and innovation, whether technological or at the level of business models, most notably at HEC Montréal Executive Education.

Before joining HEC Montréal, he held a series of executive-level research and industry positions in Canada and abroad.

About the author

Florence Thouin

About Florence Thouin

Community Manager

Florence Thouin has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications (cultural and media production strategies) from the Université du Québec à Montréal. Her interest in the world of social networks stems primarily from her love of people and her communication skills. Her desire to understand others and her altruism have always led her to be in contact with the community developing around her.