Frederick Roberts, chief financial officer of Allen Systems Group, a $24 million software developer based in Naples, Fla., knows it's crucial to build the right international banking relationships. "Some U.S. banks say they're international banks--but it turns out that they're really relying on a network of foreign-correspondent banks, which may or may not efficiently serve your needs," he says. Roberts, who works with 11 banks, recommends choosing "international banks that have major presences in the financial sectors of the big cities of those countries where your business is centered."
At one point, Roberts noticed that Allen Systems' international customers paid bills weeks or months later than domestic clients. Once the company set up bank deposit accounts in key European and Asian locations, that gap disappeared. When shopping for a foreign bank, Roberts suggests, focus on the countries where your international business is concentrated. Then compare several banks, considering both service and fees, especially on cross-border transactions. "There's more room to negotiate than you'd imagine, especially as your business increases," he notes.