Navigating financial relationships: Q&A with Katharine Kay
October 26, 2023 5 min read
In the world of modern finance, key decision-makers rely on the expertise of relationship managers (RM) to create solutions and solve problems. These RMs are the key to success for clients, as they help to attract new customers, mitigate risk and improve administrative efficiencies.
To learn more about what makes a relationship manager successful, we sat down with Katharine Kay, market manager for Southeast Regional Commercial Banking at Capital One, who has 29 years of experience in the field.
How would you describe the role of a relationship manager?
The role of a relationship manager is to work closely with clients and prospects to understand their financial goals so that we can find the best solutions to meet their needs. Whether the needs are financing, treasury management, payment solutions or even M&A advisory services, we offer customized solutions to support their long term needs.
How do you build relationships with clients?
First, never take these relationships for granted. I am thankful and proud of the many client relationships which we have had the honor of supporting for nearly three decades, but those relationships are earned day in and day out.
Building and nurturing strong relationships requires knowledgeable and caring RMs and an ability to consistently bring new ideas and respond timely to the needs and goals of our clients. It helps when there is a strong level of trust from both sides, which can certainly take time to develop.
What qualities are important when developing a rapport with a new client? What mistakes do you see other relationship managers make when attempting to do this?
Rapport comes naturally over time as you genuinely get to know clients and their strategic imperatives. This was especially challenging over the last few years when COVID-19 forced everyone to find new ways to nurture existing relationships and build trust with new ones.
Developing rapport doesn’t always translate well on Zoom calls, though we certainly made it work. But nothing compares to in-person visits, where you can connect on a deeper level and learn more about what is important to a prospective client’s business.
As far as mistakes, I’ll reference an earlier answer: Taking relationships for granted is shortsighted. Similarly, a disingenuous attempt to build rapport can backfire. It should be no different than building relationships in other aspects of life. They are built over time and proven with actions. Getting to know clients–their needs, their wants, their preferences–is important, as well as learning about them outside of the scope of their commercial needs/wants.
How does working with a large organization affect the client relationship and what do you do differently in these situations?
While the size of a company may impact the complexity of their banking needs, I don’t think there is much difference as to how we engage with larger organizations. The key is still investing the time to get to know our clients, establishing trust and developing a good foundation to better understand their needs. Of course with larger organizations there will undoubtedly be a much larger number of key stakeholders with varying needs. But I am confident in our capabilities and expertise to support both large and smaller organizations.
What resources does a larger financial institution like Capital One provide to help foster positive client relationships?
There isn’t really a cookie-cutter list of resources. As a top 10 financial institution with a large balance sheet and flexible credit sizes,* Capital One enables relationship managers to customize solutions for our clients’ specific needs. We have specialties across a number of industries and have dedicated specialists that can offer solutions including capital markets, treasury management, interest-rate risk management–even M&A advisory services and commodity hedging strategies.
Our role is to bring ideas to the table and be a resource for clients. Capital One provides us the ability to offer those resources to clients; for example, we work closely with members of Capital One’s M&A team which can help us provide guidance to clients evaluating sell side or buy side opportunities.
What’s your greatest achievement as a relationship manager?
Leading my team through the pandemic was an undertaking that involved daily calls with each team member to make sure they had the supplies–and the encouragement–they needed to support our clients while working from home, and also providing constant updates to clients. It was a daunting experience, but being able to stay in touch with everyone during that period certainly stands out.
Beyond that, I also serve on the bank’s corporate Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) Council, where I am proud of the programs we have built to support diverse associates. As someone with strong boricua roots who moved from Puerto Rico to New Orleans as a young child, I’m proud to have had the honor to serve on a Mentorship Circles program where I led discussions with a group of associates about a number of DIB topics. I continue to be impressed with the caliber of our associates who genuinely care about DIB and want to do what they can to support each other.
How have you kept your skills and expertise sharp over the span of 3 decades?
Our job changes vastly from day to day, which provides us with consistent opportunities to develop skills. Certainly, the continuous changes in the banking industry and the economy keep us on our toes, as do the technological advancements in both the way we deliver banking services and how our clients operate.
What is your process for choosing the most appropriate solutions for your clients needs?
First of all, I listen. Only when we fully understand a client’s goals can we work to tailor solutions to meet their needs. And because Capital One works across many industries, we have the expertise and capabilities to bring the best solutions to support our clients’ objectives.
How can a potential customer identify if a relationship manager is right for them?
Consider what resources they are bringing to the table. Are they asking the right questions? Are they creative thinkers and making an effort to learn about the industry?
Second, it’s important to have a sense of trust in your banker and it's great if you can develop a strong rapport. Prioritizing that relationship is essential; only then will you feel comfortable providing the necessary information to move to the next steps.
Finally, remember that a relationship manager should have passion for their role. I firmly believe that our team at Capital One is the best at what we do, and I attribute that to the fact that we all truly care about each other and our clients’ success.
Learn more about Capital One Commercial Bank solutions and relationship managers.
*Top U.S. Domiciled Bank Commercial Banking outstandings. Sources: Individual bank Q2 2023 earnings releases and Capital One-reported data as of 7.31.2023 unless otherwise noted.