High Touch, High Profits

Donald Price | Liberty National Bank | Ada, Ohio

Donald Price grows business loans through relationship banking

By Carol Patton

Credibility and integrity. Those two principles have guided Donald Price’s outstanding community banking career for more than 20 years.

Many people think banks are the same, says Price, vice president of commercial lending at Liberty National Bank in Ada, Ohio. “For the most part, we all have the same products,” he continues. “How can I be different? It comes back to the philosophy that people sell people. It’s all about marketing oneself, dealing with others in a credible manner and being able to converse on their level.”

Price has grown and managed residential and commercial lending positions at various banks. But when one of his commercial clients suffered a heart attack in 2000 and asked Price to take over his construction company, he jumped at the chance. Price served as its president for 10 years before selling the profitable company, and then he joined Liberty National Bank in 2010 in his current role.

He started his new community banking career with an $8 million business loan portfolio. Within 33 months, it increased by almost 400 percent, to nearly $31 million, says Anna Maria Brenneman, Liberty National’s senior vice president and chief lending and credit officer. Loans represent $152 million (68 percent) of the bank’s $224 million in assets.

“Don is extremely people-oriented,” says Brenneman, adding that he is also very talented at analyzing the potential of businesses and structuring loan deals. “He’s able to very quickly build a rapport with customers. He is always true to his word so people very quickly understand and see that he genuinely cares about them.”

Price, 57, wholeheartedly believes in relationship banking, which he says requires active listening so he can learn about a customer’s industry and business challenges. He says that skill set makes him a better lender, especially during tough economic times and in a tough marketplace. He serves commercial customers in small Ohio cities like Kenton, which is mainly agricultural, and Marysville, which mostly supports local businesses. Recently, he began expanding his reach and successfully started mining business opportunities, specifically real estate development, in nearby Columbus.

When Price returned to community banking after a decade-long absence, he says the hardest part of his transition was understanding and complying with new federal banking and consumer regulatory policies. “That’s where I had most of my struggle,” he says, adding that handling paperwork and administrative trivia are definitely not his forte. “It was a rude awakening.”

Meanwhile, Price continues to meet new commercial loan prospects and continually works to earn their respect and trust. As his client relationships develop and grow, so does his referral base and loan portfolio.

“Three years into this and I still have the same philosophy,” he says. “When I left banking … I lost contact with people. Getting back in this environment, dealing with people, is what I love.”

Carol Patton is a writer in Las Vegas.