Here’s Why Banks Need to Get Personal

The SME market is becoming a key target sector for most banks, but these often more agile organisations demand a better digital approach, and according to Kyle Ferguson, CEO of Fraedom, a personal touch is what’s needed. Thanks to technological advances within retail banking, the way we bank in our personal lives has changed dramatically. […]

The SME market is becoming a key target sector for most banks, but these often more agile organisations demand a better digital approach, and according to Kyle Ferguson, CEO of Fraedom, a personal touch is what’s needed.

Thanks to technological advances within retail banking, the way we bank in our personal lives has changed dramatically. No longer do we wait for bank statements to arrive at the end of each month to get an idea of our spending; instead, we are able to do this whenever we want, and often in real-time, via an app on our phone. This evolution of banking in our personal lives has fuelled a change in expectation among SMEs who are demanding the same experiences and offerings within the world of business banking. As a result of this change in expectations, SMEs are demanding a better digital approach as reflected by 57% of SMEs that now want to move to an online/mobile banking business environment.

However, banks are currently struggling to meet the demands of SMEs and deliver the more personalised service and consumer-focused offering the majority desire. Yet, with a combined annual turnover of £2.0 trillion and accounting for 52% of all private sector turnover in the UK in 2018, SMEs are a highly lucrative market that banks can’t afford to ignore. So, where should banks start and how can they begin to attract SMEs?

Developing a digital offering

According to a survey conducted by Fraedom, 95% of commercial clients who bank digitally in their personal lives, expect to do so at work as well. Ultimately, SMEs want the same digital capabilities, such as apps and online platforms, they get as personal customers. Yet, just 43% of SMEs claim to have near real-time control over business spend. Similarly, almost a third of respondents feel they have very little visibility on a day-to-day basis and nearly a quarter confessing to having to regularly spend significant time and money investigating who spent what. Furthermore, over half of UK respondents said that on average they were personally spending more than two hours a week on expense or financial management tasks. The need to regularly go back and interrogate audit trails can be a further drag on a business’ efficiency and productivity.

Just 43% of SMEs claim to have near real-time control over business spend.

In our personal lives, we now have seamless mobile transactions, highly responsive customer service and fast transaction times. Yet, although personal bank statements typically update in real time and can be viewed on a mobile device, reconciliation of work-based expenditures can take days, if not weeks to process. It is therefore unsurprising that SMEs are left frustrated by the lack of innovation offered by banks and are demanding banks provide the same tools, level of service and personalised experience we have become so used to in our personal lives.

Gaining an understanding of SMEs

Banks’ engagement levels with SME customers have also been revealed by Fraedom to leave a lot to be desired with just 12% of UK SMEs saying they thought that banks their organisation had dealt with over the past year fully understood their needs as a business. It is therefore vital that banks work to understand the needs of SMEs and also learn to speak the same language.

This understanding of SMEs also extends to ways in which they want to interact with banks. For instance, the 2018 FIS Performance Against Customer Expectations (PACE) found that almost half of UK SMEs prefer to contact their bank through digital methods via a tablet or mobile, for example. Banks need to keep this in mind and offer preferred methods of communication if they are to really tap into this lucrative market.

The SME sector is a truly lucrative market for banks, and ignoring their pleas for a more digital, personalised approach would be a mistake.

Moving forward together

The SME sector is a truly lucrative market for banks, and ignoring their pleas for a more digital, personalised approach would be a mistake. It is vital that banks begin to innovate to answer this demand with partnering with fintechs often being the most effective way of doing this. Through fintech partnerships, banks will be able to not only implement the right technology but also to get a better understanding of their SME client-base. As a result, banks will be better able to understand the consumerisation of business processes and technologies; the eagerness of SMEs to adopt these to achieve enhanced agility; and the frustration they feel if they sense that banks are effectively not speaking their language.

This tailored service will allow banks to build lasting, more trust-based relationships with SME customers, while SMEs will gain greater business agility, streamlined efficiencies and increased visibility of expenditure.

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