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AUGUST 05, 2020

A conversation with Kris Humphries: How to find a banker

Whether you’re just opening your first business or are looking to grow your empire, finding a banking partner who is well-versed in your specific needs and willing to invest in your relationship is critical.

Former NBA player Kris Humphries learned this early on in his business career. By the time he was approaching retirement, he’d already seen other professional athletes struggle to transition from their sports careers to the rest of their lives. He knew the skills that win games don’t always help pro athletes win at money management when the salary disappears, so he taught himself a new set of skills: those of a successful business owner.

“As an athlete, when money’s coming in like crazy, you don’t pay attention to some details because it’s just not worth it,” said Humphries. “But in a business you have to pay attention to all the details because they add up.”

A lot of athletes are self-taught when it comes to business, noted Humphries, particularly if their career takes off in college and they don’t finish their degree. Humphries educated himself about the business details he’d need to pay attention to by reading and seeking out advice from mentors. 

While he was still playing professional basketball, he and his parents started looking into business opportunities in fast food. They bought their first Five Guys franchise in St. Cloud, Minnesota in 2008 and began expanding their business from there. Humphries and his family now own 10 stores, along with a growing number of Crisp & Green franchises. As well as the fast casual chains, Humphries also invests in multi-family real estate, and owns apartment buildings throughout Minnesota. 

Growing this versatile business has required good banking partners. After experiencing a number of successful – and unsuccessful – relationships, Humphries now has a list of what he looks for.

The ideal banking partner:

Is the Michael Jordan of their specialty

Basketball isn’t a solo game, and neither is business. “The biggest thing is your team,” said Humphries. “You need to hire a team of one hundred percent professionals to run your finances and help make goals.” 

When you’re putting together your team, look for a banking partner who’s not just specialized in your specific business, but is at the top of their game. “For business banking, I looked for the Michael Jordan of franchise,” said Humphries. 

Asks the right questions

The right banking partner will ask good, challenging questions in order to understand what you’re trying to accomplish and establish the basis of a solid relationship. Be wary of a bank who seems eager to take on your business before ensuring you’re a good fit. 

At the same time, you should be asking your own questions in order to determine whether or not the banking professional is right for you. “You learn a lot about people’s personalities in business,” said Humphries. “The successful people aren’t the ones flashing it around and trying to rope people in. Some of the most successful people I’ve met are very low-key. They don’t overpromise.”

Works with your goals

The ideal banking partner should be committed to helping you achieve your goals, rather than trying to sell you a pre-packaged product. They should take the time to understand what you need and help you get it, said Humphries. “It shouldn’t be a lot of back-and-forth.” 

Additionally, your bank should truly be a partner in helping you meet those goals by holding themselves and you accountable and offering you additional resources, like connections to others in the industry.

Invests in your relationship

Finding an ideal banking partner doesn’t happen with one single transaction. If you sense that a bank isn’t willing to invest the time into developing that relationship with you, keep searching until you find someone who is. “If I’m putting money somewhere, if I’m actually trusting you to invest it, it takes a while,” said Humphries. “I want to know that you are the best.”

Not only does building a long-term relationship establish trust for you, it also helps your banking partner get to know your portfolio so they can help you make big picture decisions. Going to multiple banks for single transactions undercuts the ability of your banking partner to step into an advisory role.

Is truly a partner

The underlying theme is that the bank should be a partner with your business, working with you to provide the tools you need for growth. 

“Most banks just want to build the relationship in order to get your assets over,” Humphries said. “A good relationship is where there is money on both sides.” 

Look for a banking partner who is proactive and communicates clearly, and is also transparent about resources, products, services, and cost. You should both understand how your relationship is benefitting each other. His ideal banking partner is somebody he can go to with requests, and they’ll either give him a quick no if they can’t do it, or try to accommodate him if they can. 

A journey of learning 

Kris Humphries has come to his list of ideal banking partner requirements through years of working on his businesses with his family, and by continuously putting himself in a mindset to learn.

“Going into business, I had to change my thought process,” he said. “I learned a lot from my dad, and now I know where I can bring value while still I’m learning about the business.”

From that first Five Guys franchise in St. Cloud, MN to the latest apartment building investment, Humphries and his family have expanded their business along with their relationship with their banking partner. It takes a long time to build that kind of trusting relationship, Humphries noted, but it’s time worth investing.

If you are looking for the right banking partner for your business, know that it will take time to build a relationship with someone who is specialized in your field, invested in your goals, and who will truly be a partner with you. Start by reaching out to a banker you trust, and begin the conversation today. 


Kris Humphries is a client of BMO U.S. Bank N.A.