Small business banking like pulling teeth

A survey says SME owners are distinctly unimpressed with the service they get from their bank manager...

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Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010

Nearly half of small business owner/ managers are so disillusioned with their bank manager that they haven’t been to see them for over a year, according to new research by Close Invoice Finance – in fact, almost a quarter said they couldn’t remember the last time they’d had face-to-face contact with the person who looks after their money. And given that most SMEs will be needing more support than ever at the moment, given the parlous state of the economy, this sounds less than ideal… 

One problem is that SME bosses aren’t happy with the way banks browbeat them into buying extra services – 58% said their bank manager employed bully-boy tactics to make sure they put all their money in the same place, rather than shopping around for a better deal. So it’s no wonder that they’re starting to dread even the occasional trip to their bankers: in fact, one in ten said they’d now rather go to the dentist. It’s a pretty damning indictment of your customer service skills if your clients would rather have their teeth pulled out than come to see you.

Banks are still good for one thing, of course: money. SMEs looking to grow their business often rely on their overdraft facility to fund growth without needing to give away equity (although this cuts both ways, of course: one in four companies are worried that their bank might pull the plug on their funding at short notice if business conditions continue to deteriorate). But if it’s advice and support they want, bosses apparently prefer to turn to their accountant (cited by 43%, as opposed to 25%).

That’s not to say the traditional bank manager is dead, of course. David Thomson, the CEO of Close Invoice Finance, said businesses do still want that kind of service – but they just don’t get it any more. ‘Many dearly miss the ‘Captain Manwaring’ figure of the traditional bank manager,’ he says. ‘But, in an era of call centres and tightening margins, they recognise that he’s all but vanished from modern British banking.’

If this is true, it’s a real shame – and we hope that it’s not too late for banks to do something about it. These days their repeat business depends on relationship building. And if this survey is anything to go by, they’ve got a lot of improving to do on that front...


In today's bulletin:
Punch pulls final dividend
OECD takes wind out of Gordon's sails  
Small business banking like pulling teeth  
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