COVENTRY, R.I. — There’s one thing that Adam Quinlan is still in awe over as the newly hired vice president of Coventry Credit Union’s commercial services division: no prepayment penalties. This is coming from someone who has spent about 12 years in financial services in several different roles. Prior to joining the new department at the $224 million credit union, Quinlan owned and operated a local firm that specialized in financing deals across Rhode Island, Massachusetts and Connecticut ranging from multiunit apartment buildings to a $150 million specialty use facility. “I had heard of credit unions [before coming to Coventry],” Quinlan said. “They were a tough competitor when I was on the brokerage side. But, no prepayment penalties-that’s a big deal at credit unions.” Coventry had been offering business loans on a small scale but decided to take the plunge in late 2008 with its new division. Members now have access to checking, savings, money market accounts and certificates of deposit on the business deposit side and lines of credit, term loans, equipment, car and real estate loans on the lending side. The credit union is seeking approval from the Small Business Administration to offer 7(a) and 504 loans, Quinlan said. Online services are also in the lineup with remote direct deposit and wire transfers coming later this year. Typically, credit unions tend to look to the banking industry to staff their business services divisions. Coventry bucked that trend and went with Quinlan, who has strong ties to the small business marketplace as a former entrepreneur and a consultant with the Rhode Island Small Business Development Center, where he would help tweak business plans and prepare financial statements. Funded by the SBA and other agencies, the center provides free counseling and assistance to the business community. To balance out his interaction skills, Quinlan is also a numbers cruncher. He started out as an auditor at a large, Boston-based insurance company where he was a point person ensuring that the Fortune 500 corporation met the compliance deadline for Sarbanes-Oxley, sweeping regulations passed in 2002 for financial practice and corporate governance. Quinlan said the 1,000-employee company was among the first Fortune 500 firms to meet Sarbanes-Oxley’s initial compliance deadline. The skills that he has acquired over the years are certainly in play at Coventry. Quinlan said he will gladly share contacts with business members who may have a specific question about a business plan or related concern. He continues to attend a number of chamber events and trade shows and invites members to attend. Coventry also plans to host its own small business workshops this year. Even before networking and education, the critical first step starts with the credit union’s frontline employees. “The big thing is empowering people internally,” Quinlan said. “We want them to feel empowered and comfortable with sharing what Coventry has to offer.” The credit union built its lineup of commercial services on feedback gathered through a focus group of business members and nonmembers who owned small businesses. Most wanted no-nonsense products and services and convenience, which led to the launch of Coventry’s no-nonsense checking account with unlimited checks and low fees. Still, even stellar offerings can’t erase the fact that business lending is struggling nationwide. As proof, Rhode Island Gov. Donald Carcieri recently implemented a small business stimulus package that will invest $165 million over the next two years to jump-start the state’s stalled economy. Several credit unions and banks have contributed to the effort. “From a market share point, a lot of lenders have pulled out. We want to get the message out that we have money to lend,” Quinlan said. “One of the biggest things I advocate is communication. We can’t help everyone, but we can be proactive.” Coventry, which has branches across Rhode Island, is competing in the small business marketplace with a handful of large banks and a couple of credit unions. Quinlan said not having prepayment penalties is a clear advantage. Bigger than that is a return to the one-on-one attention business owners crave, he pointed out. “People miss that. We want to maintain that. With business members, it might not be a question about a product or a service. They may just need a contact.” For now, Quinlan is “wearing a lot of hats” as the only staffer in Coventry’s commercial services division while the credit union keeps its focus on operating lean and mean. He’s not complaining though. The notion that he even has a marketing department to turn to-something many cash-strapped small business owners can only dream of-is icing on the cake. “Especially in these times, it’s important to have a local credit union that wants to make a difference,” said Quinlan, a few hours before he was scheduled to meet with a member to discuss their business plan. –[email protected]

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