According to new research from insurer AXA directors of SME firms said their local council was the least transparent institution that they have regular dealings with.
Only 59 per cent rated them as transparent as part of Axas Trust and Transparency between SMEs and Institutions report.
That is well below the 65 per cent for energy providers and the 73 per cent for banks two sectors that have suffered significant reputational damage around the clarity of their business dealings.
Accountants were the most transparent at 90 per cent, lawyers next with 84 per cent and then insurers at 75 per cent.
When asked to rate their level of trust in five elements key to ensuring ongoing commercial success and to deliver certain critical services, SME directors had the least faith in the Government to legislate in the best interests of SMEs.
Only half of respondents, 52 per cent, trusted that the Government has their interests at heart.
SMEs put most trust in their supply chain to deliver goods and services on time, 87 per cent, their insurer to pay out in full, 73 per cent, creditors to pay on time, 68 per cent, and their bank to lend competitively 58 per cent.
Amanda Blanc, CEO, of AXAs commercial business, said: Our research makes it clear that there are significant trust and transparency issues between SMEs and the institutions they deal with. Given the importance that SMEs play in fostering talent and providing economic growth, there is a worrying level of distrust and scepticism between SMEs and the supporting pillars upon whose services they depend. If SMEs dont trust their bank or local government to treat them fairly and transparently then they are less likely to grow effectively.
She said the results highlight the importance of face to face interaction between SMEs and key institutions.
Given that professional services rank at the top in terms of transparency and the supply chain in terms of trust, it seems that providing that personal touch is as important as ever. This flies in the face of the urge of some organisations to digitise their services this strategy appears to alienate SMEs to the detriment of all parties,” she says. Add to this lack of trust in Government and local councils, the concerns around late payments of what AXA estimates to be 1.7 million SMEs and we see there are serious barriers to growth that need to be addressed.