Friday, October 06, 2006

Sign of the Apocalypse

The banks are throwing way too much money at small business.

On Wednesday morning I received two calls from banks that had rented a mailing list and wanting to give my business (which is mainly me and a couple of computers) big fat credit lines.

The first call came from Wells Fargo Bank, which occasionally chases Canadian business. A woman with a distinct deep-midwest drawl wanted to know if I was interested in a $50,000 credit line with an interest rate of 1.99%. (She didn't say so, but I presume that's a time-limited introductory rate). Although her accent is off-putting to Canadian ears, she was a pretty good salesperson - she very effectively rebuffed all my attempts to get off the phone.

In fact, they're a slick outfit. When it was clear I wasn't interested, she promised the offer would still be valid in case I changed my mind. With that she gave me Wells Fargo's web address and a special password. If nothing else, it's a good way to motivate people to visit their website - especially given that many entrepreneurs I know have never heard of Wells Fargo. (And most of them are too young to remember the grand old Wells Fargo TV show.)

(Can you imagine a TV series called Tales of the Toronto Dominion? Somebody call the CBC!)

A few hours later, CIBC called. They didn't quote an amount for the credit line they wanted to give me (which I think is much more responsible), but they did offer it to me at 5.5%, a half-point below prime. When I said their rate was a bit higher than my previous offer from Wells Fargo, the poor telemarketer didn't know what to say. She finally decided to stick with, "That's an American bank," as if that somehow settled the matter.

P.S. I got a new offer from AmEx today for a business card with a credit limit of up to $75,000 - with no annual fee. Plus, the letter said, "You can enjoy our competitive interest rate of 16.99%." Wells Fargo is looking better all the time.

What are you hearing from the banks?

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