UK and US banks in danger of losing SME customers to digital competition


A new study from financial services technology leader FIS™ (NYSE: FIS) has identified key gaps in the performance of larger U.S. and U.K. banks in serving the needs of their critical small and mid-sized business (SMB) client base.

The FIS study found that while SMBs in both countries are generally satisfied with their banking providers, many of those businesses are considering switching banks – particularly customers of larger financial institutions – to take advantage of other available services or more competitive fees. This comes at a time when SMBs are dramatically increasing their use of digital banking and payment tools to handle a variety of financial transactions and activities.

The findings are part of the 2018 FIS Performance Against Customer Expectations (PACE) report, which surveyed consumers and SMB decision makers on how well their banking providers are meeting their needs.

“Our research shows that larger banks are missing key opportunities to meet the growing digital needs of their important SMB customers,” said Bruce Lowthers, chief operating officer, Integrated Financial Solutions, FIS. “These findings are particularly concerning at a time when SMBs look to their banking partners to help them capitalize on favorable economic conditions to drive growth. Banks of all sizes have an opportunity to leverage their trusted status to provide these very important clients with the modern offerings they need to grow.”

Larger Banks Vulnerable to Attrition
The study found that more than 80% of surveyed SMB customers in the U.S., and 70% of SMB customers in the U.K., are satisfied with their primary banking providers. However:
• In the U.S., SMBs report higher satisfaction with services from community banks over larger banks. Most of the SMBs that have switched banks, or plan to, are customers of larger banks.
• In the U.K., nearly one in four SMBs – most of which use larger banking providers – are planning to switch banking providers in the next 12 months
• Common reasons cited by SMBs in both countries for switching banks are uncompetitive fees, dissatisfaction with services/products provided, outdated bank processes, or being declined for a business loan/line of credit.
• SMBs in both countries report difficulty in obtaining reliable and accurate information from their banks, especially larger institutions, without visiting a physical bank branch.

Growing Adoption of Digital Tools
The SMB decision makers surveyed by FIS say they are increasingly adopting advanced tools from their banking providers to perform a growing number of financial transactions and activities:
• About 60% of SMBs in both countries have increased the number of transactions done digitally over the past year.
• More than 40% of financial transactions were completed digitally by SMBs in both countries.
• Acceptance of online, mobile app and person-to-person payments increased 38% over the last year for U.S. SMBs.
• More than 70% of SMBs in the U.S., and an even higher percentage in the U.K., report using mobile apps for handling financial transactions.
• More than half of the survey respondents in both countries make financial transactions from their smartphones on behalf of their businesses.
• Slightly more SMB survey respondents in the U.K. (28%) than the U.S. (23%) say their companies offer mobile wallet capabilities for financial transactions.

“There’s both good news and bad news for banks in this new FIS study,” said Christine Barry, research director at Aite Group. “The good news is that SMBs generally value their relationships with their primary banks and trust them more than alternative providers of banking and payment services. The bad news is that, at a time when their use and acceptance of digital transactions is growing, many SMBs are not happy with the tools they’re getting from their banking providers. Banks need to move quickly to address these needs.”

About the PACE Study
The PACE Study’s research method was comprised of surveys of decision makers at 574 small and medium-sized businesses across the United States and the United Kingdom. Businesses surveyed had $500 million (or the GBP equivalent) or less in revenue. They varied in size from startups to established businesses, and crossed industries. Surveys were conducted online, and asked respondents to rank their bank on nine key performance indicators.