The Top 10 Commercial Banking Relationship Manager Interview Questions and How to Ace Them

Real examples of the most common questions (and best answers) used to hire in commercial banking

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Interviewing for a commercial banking relationship manager position? This lucrative yet demanding role manages a portfolio of commercial clients for a bank or financial institution. It requires sales skills financial acumen, client management expertise and the ability to juggle multiple priorities.

To stand out from other qualified applicants you must thoroughly prepare for the interview questions you will face. Expect the interviewers to probe your customer service skills relationship building ability, technical knowledge and problem-solving aptitude.

We’ve compiled the 10 most common commercial banking relationship manager interview questions, along with examples of strong responses. With practice and preparation, you will be ready to put your best foot forward.

1. Describe a time when you had to deal with a difficult client.

This question tests your patience, composure and conflict resolution skills when faced with a dissatisfied or challenging customer. To ace your response:

  • Provide a specific example of a difficult client situation, explaining the context briefly. Focus on a case where the client was upset or unreasonable.

  • Explain calmly and objectively what the client’s concerns were. Do not get emotional or place blame.

  • Describe the steps you took to resolve the issue and meet the client’s needs. Emphasize listening, finding common ground and maintaining a positive relationship.

  • Share the positive outcome you achieved. Conclude by expressing what you learned and how you became a better relationship manager.

Example response:

“In my last role, I had a commercial real estate client upset about being denied a loan for a new property. He felt the bank was not understanding his needs. I listened closely to understand his frustration. I explained the rationale behind the bank’s decision while also validating his concerns. We had an open discussion about options that could get him the financing he needed. By finding common ground, I was able to retain his business and get him referred to a lending product better suited to his goals.”

2. Have you ever made a decision that cost you a client?

The interviewer wants to know if you can own up to professional mistakes without blaming others. They also want to see that you can learn from the experience.

  • Be honest if you have made a misstep that lost a client. Do not get defensive or make excuses.

  • Offer just a brief explanation of the decision and why you made it at the time. Avoid excessive details or blaming external factors.

  • Analyze how the situation could have been handled better to retain the client. Show your accountability.

  • Share what you learned and how it has positively impacted your work and judgment since. Focus on personal growth.

Example response:

“Early in my career, I was overeager to move a client into a new investment product. In my enthusiasm, I did not listen closely enough to their risk tolerance and preferences. The product was too risky for them. Though I explained the benefits I saw, the client felt uncomfortable with it and moved to another bank. I learned to put the client’s needs first, really understand their goals before making recommendations and not let my excitement about financial products cloud my judgment.”

3. What do you value more: high work quality or meeting tight deadlines?

This probing question tests how well you manage priorities and expectations. The interviewer wants to understand your work ethic.

  • Affirm that both quality and timeliness are crucial in this role. Explain you always aim to deliver both.

  • Share that if forced to choose between the two, you put a slight priority on work quality over speed. Rationale: Delivering excellence fosters trust and loyalty with commercial clients over the long-term.

  • Give an example of when you went above-and-beyond on a project or task to get it right, even if it meant extra time investment.

  • Express how you still remain committed to meeting aggressive deadlines. Describe your schedule management, productivity and time optimization skills.

Example response:

“Work quality and meeting deadlines are both essential. My priority is delighting clients by exceeding their expectations on deliverables, so I lean towards quality. For example, on a recent client growth plan I put in extra hours to do additional research and financial modeling to back up my recommendations with rigorous analysis versus taking shortcuts. The client was very pleased with the thoroughness. Though it required a time investment on that occasion, it strengthened their trust and loyalty. Moving forward, they are more receptive to my advice and ideas.”

4. How do you prefer to contact clients, through email or phone?

With this question, the interviewer wants to understand your client communication skills and preferences.

  • Affirm there is no one best approach; you customize contact methods based on each client’s needs and the context.

  • Explain that generally, you prefer speaking directly by phone for relationship building whenever feasible. Hearing tone and having meaningful dialogue fosters trust.

  • However, you utilize email extensively as well. It allows conveying detailed information efficiently. You optimize email content and tone for each recipient.

  • Describe your system for monitoring and promptly responding to client emails to deliver responsive service.

  • Share that you integrate both phone and email seamlessly, knowing when each channel is better suited based on the situation.

Example response:

“I use both email and phone, choosing the right medium for each client and circumstance. Email allows sending information comprehensively and efficiently. However, I prefer phone for relationship building. Hearing someone’s voice and having a conversation, especially when responding to concerns or questions, makes clients feel valued. I aim to personalize communication method and content to deliver responsive service. Whether email or phone, I demonstrate professionalism and provide value.”

5. Describe your most challenging sales project so far.

This common question assesses your ability to handle sales challenges. Use an example that showcases key skills.

  • Introduce the challenging sales project briefly including key obstacles you faced. For example, selling a new product to skeptical, demanding clients.

  • Outline the systematic approach you took to understand client needs and identify how the product met them.

  • Highlight sales, negotiation and relationship management skills you leveraged to convince clients of the product’s value.

  • Share any creative solutions or adaptations you made to get deals completed.

  • Describe the successful sales results you ultimately achieved.

Example response:

“My most challenging sales project was introducing our firm’s new commercial mobile banking app to reticent clients comfortable with old processes. Many saw no need to change systems. I overcame resistance by first understanding each client’s pain points. I matched app features to how the tool could address their needs and save them time. I patiently explained the enhanced security and accessibility benefits. To provide reassurance, I offered extensive onboarding support. My systematic consultative approach led over 35% of my book of clients to adopt the new app.”

6. How would you respond if a client asked you for improper favors or inappropriate gifts?

This Ethics question tests your integrity and professionalism.

  • State directly and firmly that you do not provide improper favors or gifts to clients.

  • Explain violating ethical standards would undermine the trust in the client relationship.

  • Describe how you would courteously decline while respecting the boundaries of your role.

  • Share how you would notify your manager regarding the issue if appropriate without betraying client confidences.

  • Affirm the importance of maintaining high ethical standards in banking.

Example response:

“If a client asked me for improper favors or gifts, I would politely but firmly inform them I cannot accommodate requests violating legal or ethical rules. This would undermine rather than strengthen our business relationship built on trust. I would aim to redirect the client to appropriate products or services I can properly provide that meet their needs.”

7. How do you go about building rapport and relationships with new clients?

This relationship-building question allows you to demonstrate your “people skills”.

  • Highlight the importance of listening first to understand each new client’s unique needs, goals and concerns when starting any relationship.

  • Describe asking thoughtful questions and identifying areas you can provide value.

  • Share relationship nurturing tactics like regular check-ins, valuable information sharing and responding promptly to inquiries.

  • Give examples of customizing your sales approach based on each client’s personality and style.

  • Express enthusiasm for building rapport and earning new clients’ trust and loyalty over time.

Example response:

“Building strong rapport starts with listening closely to each new client to understand their priorities and challenges. I look for areas our bank can provide solutions and add value. I maintain regular, helpful contact without being pushy. Some clients prefer facts and figures. For them I provide concrete analysis on financial options. Others appreciate a more personal touch. I bond with them by getting to know their business on a deeper level. Earning clients’ trust is about consistently demonstrating genuine commitment to helping them achieve their goals.”

8. How do you go the extra mile for clients? Share a specific example.

This question allows you to share your commitment to outstanding customer service.

  • Describe a time you went above-and-beyond for a client. For example, spending extra time on a complex analysis or introducing them to a strategic contact.

  • Explain how your actions strengthened the relationship and delighted the client.

  • Detail the positive long-term impact such

What are the Most Common Commercial Banking Interview Questions?

Download CFI’s comprehensive interview prep guide for credit analysts and commercial banking professionals.

We asked a lot of account managers, relationship managers, and credit analysts in commercial banking what the most common interview questions are. From what they said and what we heard, these are the questions we think a hiring manager will ask you in an interview.

We’ve organized the interview questions into two categories:

  • Technical (finance and accounting)
  • Behavioral (personality and relationships)

There are also what we think are the best answers to these commercial banking interview questions in this guide. For other careers, please check out all our interview guides.

#1 Technical commercial banking interview questions:

There are two main approaches: (1) assets, and (2) cash flow. A thorough approach includes a full financial analysis of the company based on its financial statements, the state of the market, and the people running the company.

When you use the asset approach, you should know how much your assets are really worth, how easy they are to sell, and how much you think you could get for them. On the cash flow approach, the historical ability to generate cash flow (or net income, EBIT, EBITDA, etc. will be used along with a realistic forecast to figure out how much debt they can handle.

To learn more, see CFI’s Loan Pricing course.

I would start by putting them in a clean Excel workbook or company template in a way that makes sense. Next, I would figure out a number of ratios, such as profitability, growth, margins, leverage, and liquidity (see question below for examples). Lastly, I would look at these ratios and try to figure out what the future holds by looking at trends that have been present for at least three years.

Learn more in our Financial Analysis for Credit Course.

There is a wide range of credit metrics. A few of the most common ones include:

There are different types of leverage, such as debt to equity, debt to capital, debt to EBITDA, interest coverage ratio (or fixed charge coverage ratio), and others.

Liquidity: working capital, current ratio, quick ratio, cash ratio.

You have to be careful with your answer to this commercial banking interview question. There is an economist at every bank, and most of them have three different points of view on interest rates: up, down, and flat. The most important thing is to show that (1) you know what interest rates are now and (2) you can think of some smart situations in which they might go up or down. Avoid making a precise prediction, but show that you’re informed.

For more on this, see our macroeconomic interview questions.

There could be many issues. The most likely reason for the company’s rising sales is that it is either (1) spending more on marketing (see return on ad spend), (2) lowering prices, (3) seeing its cost of goods sold rise, or (4) changing the way it accounts for things, such as no longer capitalizing an expense that it used to. More research needs to be done on the income statement, but it’s usually a sign that growth is being pursued in a way that isn’t cost-effective, though that’s not always the case.

It’s kind of a trick question because all three answers are very important and you can’t really get by with just one. You can look at a company’s income statement to see how much money it makes and what its operating margins are. The balance sheet shows what a company owns and what it owes. Finally, the cash flow statement shows how much actual cash the business is generating or consuming. All three are important together.


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