Leadership & Productivity

SMEs say banks are too focused on profits over customer service

3 min read

06 December 2017

Former special projects journalist

Small business owners have voiced concerns over bank branch closures, poor customer service and a lack of understanding about SME requirements.

Around 24 per cent of SMEs do not believe that banks have changed behaviour since the 2008 global financial crisis, and around 55 per cent believe it is not a priority for banks to act in a “civilised” manner.

This is according to a survey of small businesses in the UK from CivislisedBank, a new business bank with a Local Banker network.

Over half of SMEs (59 per cent) selected “fair treatment of customers” as representing what being civilised means to their business, with being a “responsible employer” (38 per cent) and having “strong relationships with customers” (37 per cent) also ranking highly.

The reasons cited for the perception that banks do not hold acting civilised as a priority included continued closure of bank branches, poor customer service and a focus on profits over service.

Some SME executives claimed the removal of local relationship managers deprived them of a consistent point of customer service contact at their bank, which in turn means the bank has a limited understanding of the business. Others highlighted that banks were making decisions via computer algorithms, rather than on a case-by-case basis, which again hurts customer service levels.

Philip Acton, chief executive officer of CivilisedBank said: “It’s clear that SMEs want to see change. Despite many initiatives since 2008, a quarter of executives at SMEs still think nothing has changed in banking.

“As an industry, banking needs to get back to the future and to revisit customer service and personal relationships, something that has been lost over the years. Whilst much has changed since the 2008 global financial crisis, the good work that’s been done has not resonated with the wider public. So banks need to reconnect with SME customers.”

Nick Gould, chairman of the SME Alliance, said: “The banking sector needs to examine constantly how best to meet the needs of this massive market.

“Banks need to combine the best of innovative technology and a more relationship driven approach, the old and the new. What is clear from evidence we have seen is that the current status quo isn’t reliable or effective enough if we are to foster a truly vibrant and innovative SME driven economy.”

This article is part of a wider campaign called the Scale-up Hub, a section of Real Business that provides essential advice and inspiration on taking your business to the next level. It’s produced in association with webexpenses and webonboarding, a fast-growing global organisation that provides cloud-based software services that automate expenses management and streamline the employee onboarding process.