A digital-first approach to financial services for small businesses is weakening the relationships between UK banks and their SME customers, many of whom are now shopping around for alternative providers, according to a study by BCSG.
The research, conducted among 250 UK small business owners, found that 73% have lost contact with their relationship manager, with more than half tempted to switch banks as a consequence.
John Davis, managing director of BCSG, says the rush to digital by UK banks has had unintended consequences, weakening the relationships that kept customers tied to a particular institution.
“Banks are now acting as reactive customer service outlets, providing basic services when asked, rather than proactively providing the advice and guidance that their customers require," he says. "The result is that many SMEs are now shopping around for financial services.”
Despite the deepening sense of disengagement, 49% of SMEs have been with their current bank for more than five years and 67% would feel less disenchanted with service levels if their primary provider offered tools and advice to help with day-to-day business tasks, future planning and general efficiency.
"Banks are in a strong position given they have, effectively, a captive client base, with nearly half retaining the same bank for over five years," notes Davis. "By utilising their digital infrastructure better to deliver guidance, insight and tools to their SME customers, forward-thinking banks can combat churn, cement a highly valuable stream of revenue and move from a basic transaction provider to a trusted business partner."