A seasoned dealmaker, Clint Morton is a resource to customers and colleagues
By Ellen Ryan
Clint Morton is a deliberate man who can move fast when needed. The combination has helped make him the star lender at Farmers & Merchants Bank, a $120 million-asset community bank in Miamisburg, Ohio.
One example: a Dayton-area engineering firm that specializes in making robotic arms for manufacturing. After 40 years, its Wall Street megabank doubled the interest rate on its line of credit to over 10 percent. It took Morton a year to win the firm’s business. He brought its interest rate back under 5 percent.
Then the CEO got the chance to buy 70 robots for $70,000; his firm could refurbish and sell the robots for up to $15,000 each. Morton quickly found the cash. The CEO paid off the loan in less than two months.
“That one deal made his year,” Morton recalls.
Morton used to be with a big bank, too. After six years, “I thought it would be fun to join a small bank that wanted to grow,” he says. Of seven core producers at Farmers & Merchants—four make most of its loans—Morton closed 40 percent last year. He booked $6.9 million of the bank’s $17.4 million in total new loans in 2014. The bank’s portfolio grew 8.84 percent in 2014 and 16.66 percent in 2013.
But Morton doesn’t just make credit deals. He also knows his market well enough to offer trusted and valued advice. He showed the owner of an auto repair shop that a commerical property the owner was considering buying was overvalued and that another property that would soon be up for sale could be a great fit and less pricey.
Farmers & Merchants’ loan portfolio essentially constitutes loans for real estate, commercial and industrial, equipment, business vehicles and lines of credit. With a flat local economy, “98 percent of our business comes from happy customers,” says Shon Myers, the bank’s president and CEO. “Clint’s ability to be a professional resource is very effective.”
“One of the best things community banks offer is the opportunity to learn banking inside and out.”
—Clinton Morton, Famers & Merchants Bank
In-house, where all details must be both on time and accurate, Morton reprioritizes his to-do list constantly. He works backward through each step and builds in a cushion for emergencies. “I’ve been making loans since 1999,” he explains. “I’ve learned that waiting till the last minute stresses everyone out.”
“Past-due loans are almost nonexistent,” says Myers. Keeping them that way, Morton says, means structuring them so “borrowers have skin in the game.” Every month, Morton shares with the bank’s team which borrowers are likely to fall behind. Those borrowers get a phone call, email or visit to be sure things stay on track. It may be basic loan maintenance, he says, “but the bigger a bank is, the more this can fall through the cracks.”
Morton brings junior staff along on calls, even when they aren’t in the same area. When Daniel Yoder, the bank’s assistant vice president and branch manager, was a loan newbie, he says, “Clint not only coached me directly, but he also sent me loan prospects almost immediately.”
Why? “One of the best things community banks offer is the opportunity to learn banking inside and out,” Morton says. “It’s part of our culture: The best is to share what was shared with you.”
Ellen Ryan is a freelance writer in Maryland.