Business assessment of banking services in the UK reveals the opinions of over 5,000 British micro, small and medium businesses for the first time

Business Banking Insight (BBI), a first of its kind website which looks at how well the UK’s small and medium-sized businesses are being served by banks, went live today. Commissioned by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, BBI is designed to help businesses make better informed banking decisions. The programme is driven by ongoing support from the Federation of Small Businesses and the British Chambers of Commerce, alongside an advisory group that includes HM Treasury, British Bankers Association, Royal Bank of Scotland, Department for Business, Innovation & Skills and the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA).

BBI, announced by the Chancellor last November, publicly showcases the experiences of more than 5,000 businesses and how they rate their banks, with a view to enhancing the trust and transparency between the two groups. The research was carried out by independent market research agency ICM and offers insight into satisfaction levels and how they could be improved. 74 bank brands in total are ranked, using a mixture of percentage and 5-star rating systems, and three different business sizes were interviewed; sole traders, 1-9 employees and 10-249 employees.

Customer satisfaction levels are shown overall and against the five key factors on the BBI website:

1.       Transparency

2.       Tailored services

3.       Value

4.       Availability

5.       Keeping customers informed

Key findings for each business group within business current accounts include:

Sole traders

§  Sole traders gave banks an average current account satisfaction score of 60%

§  Sole traders were more likely than larger businesses to give 5-star ratings to lenders on responsiveness, transparency and value for money

§  However, over half of the reviewed banks received a 3-star rating or below for credit approachability

1-9 Employees

§  Businesses between 1-9 employees gave banks an average current account satisfaction score of 60%

§  This group wants tailored services but the survey shows that they are having difficulty finding them

§  Value for money is a concern with well over half of the total number of ratings at 3.5 stars or below

10-249 employees

§  Businesses with over 9 employees gave banks an average current account satisfaction score of 65%

§  They did not give a 5-star rating to any one bank for value

§  However, credit approachability was more satisfactory for this group, with 17 out of the 21 banks rated receiving a 3.5 star rating or above

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, said: “I welcome the first set of results from the new Business Banking Insight survey, which I commissioned to provide Britain’s small and medium-sized businesses with a clear and credible way to judge how their bank compares to its competitors.

“A key part of our long term economic plan is increasing competition and choice in banking, and ensuring Britain’s SMEs get the best possible service from their bank. This new survey will be a powerful tool for these businesses, providing them with the means to see who’s up for the challenge and who isn’t.”

John Allan, National Chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Nearly 60 percent of the UK workforce is employed by a small to medium sized business and 99 per cent of firms employ fewer than 49 people. For the first time this ground-breaking website will give these economically vital firms what they need to be able to make better informed choices about the banks they choose and the products they offer.

GBP Notes (PD)“There are some big prizes to be won. For the first time ever, the BBI will provide businesses with a much clearer picture of the quality of banking services available to them both on and off of the high street. We therefore expect to see the BBI help stimulate more competition in the market as firms become more aware of the products and services on offer, as well as the new challenger banks that have recently come on to the market. Another big win we expect is for the banks to use these results to up their game and work harder to support their business customers’ ambitions. While some are performing well, these results show there is still work to be done in a number of areas. Most important of these are to restore trust, increase transparency and to offer a better value for money proposition to their small business customers.”

John Longworth, Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “For many firms across the country, trust in the banking system has been severely damaged over recent years. Despite a wider improvement in economic conditions, some businesses continue to express dissatisfaction with the level of service provided by banks, and many of these firms find themselves feeling discouraged from applying for finance. The Business Banking Insight (BBI) is a vital tool for SMEs – as it will shine a light on how businesses are treated when they engage with banks. The BBI is the first-ever survey to allow businesses to compare their banking experiences across the country. We believe that its findings will bring about improvements in customer service to businesses, and drive more competition across the banking sector.

“The clear message from the first BBI is that business banking providers, especially the largest players, need to continue working to rebuild trust, repair damaged relationships with SMEs, and improve the transparency of their operations. We hope that these findings will help to usher in an era of greater collaboration and trust between businesses and their banks.”

Anthony Browne, Chief Executive at the British Bankers Association, said: “This is a really useful website, showing there is real choice for businesses in the various banking services they seek. Banks want to offer the best possible service so this feedback will be invaluable in helping them to pinpoint what they are doing well and where improvements may be needed.

“It is great that the newer and smaller banks are included as well as the established brands which just shows how many different institutions there are out there competing for new customers. Whether large or small, every bank will want to be at the top of these ratings so this can only help spur competition between banks leading to even more innovation, new products and better service for businesses.”

The research will be repeated every six months, and all findings will be communicated publicly via the bespoke website.  For more information, or to see how your bank ranks, please visit www.businessbankinginsight.co.uk or follow #BBI.

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