Following the economic crisis, small and medium-sized American businesses are putting less faith in Internet banking, instead opting for the 'human touch', according to research from Greenwich Associates.
In the years before the onset of the global credit crisis, companies began relying on Internet banking platforms to a never-before-seen extent. By December 2009, both small businesses and mid-sized companies ranked their banks' Internet platforms as having equal or greater importance than branch personnel.
Now companies in both segments rank their relationship managers as their most important banking channel by a wide margin as they put more stock in the human touch, says Greenwich, which polled 508 firms.
Between late 2009 and July 2011, the share of small businesses citing the Internet platform as the single most important point of interaction with their bank declined from 24% to 18%. For mid-sized companies the fall has been from 25% to 21%.
Meanwhile, the share of small businesses naming their relationship manager as their most important point of contact has risen from 48% to 53%. Among mid-sized companies that share increased from 60% to 71%.
However, the Internet remains by far the most frequently used bank channel by US businesses, with 70% of small businesses and 84% of mid-sized companies citing it as the option they tap most.
Meanwhile, mobile banking is still seen as little more than a luxury. Only seven per cent of small business respondents say m-banking is very important, compared to 36% who say it is not important at all. For mid-sized firms the percentages are similar.
Duncan Banfield, consultant, Greenwich, says: "Before the start of the crisis, it was easy for companies to put their bank relationships on auto-pilot, with direct interactions initiated by companies mainly in connection with important events like loan applications, and with banks reaching out mainly in connection with new product sales. Today, companies need help solving broader business problems, and our data shows that they have stepped up interactions with bank relationship managers as part of that effort."