Commercial Banking III: 5 Banks Opening Up Channels for SMEs
With analysts around the world claiming that banks are not meeting the needs of their small to medium sized business customers, we thought we’d see if we could find any who were. We were pleasantly surprised to discover quite a few, but offerings do vary greatly and figuring out how it all works can be confusing. It’s clear that banks are really struggling to provide effective services and small business specific tools across all channels. Here’s our list of 5 banks that are leveraging technology to provide better services and products to this under-served segment.
This London based bank has an incredibly well thought out SME strategy with impressive online and mobile capabilities with their fully integrated internet banking platform, Straight2Bank. The platform provides a wealth of extra information about being a business owner. The service itself includes trade transaction and reporting tools, built-in validations and authorizations for payments, user access permissions, the ability to bring all payments, payroll and trade transactions under one umbrella and consolidated reporting across multiple company accounts.
HSBC is a big, international operator so it’s great to see that they’ve got their ducks in a row with a range of offerings and tools immediately available on their commercial banking landing pages.
Their current mobile app for commercial customers is a little limited, only offering the basic transactional tools, but they say they’re working on improving it. HSBC offers two types of commercial banking via two separate platforms, which is a little confusing as there are no real guidelines about how big or small you have to be to qualify. One big advantage is that customers can tailor the service to meet their needs so they won’t end up paying for features they don’t use. The downside is that other banks offer the same services as a package and with fewer limitations.
Citi takes a slightly different approach to the other banks and has obviously put a lot of effort in to helping commercial banking customers make the right choices by segmenting the pool into small businesses, business banking and commercial banking, each with its own set of tools and products.
Unlike HSBC they are a little clearer on what needs define the sort of online product that’s the right fit for business owners. While they do say that ‘Citibank Online for Small Business’ is a good choice for those who use their mobile device to manage their banking needs, there is no specific commercial banking app for small businesses on their site.
‘America’s most convenient bank’ fails to live up to its ‘convenience’ motto by not having a mobile app for commercial clients. However, its online platform does cover most bases, providing a secure online messaging service, the ability to create permissions for multiple users, control over alerts, and the usual payment and transfer functions. The online banking demo is well designed and easy to find.
Check out how TD Bank deliver online banking to SMEs
Lloyds TSB is typical of most banks in that it has clearly invested for more in its larger commercial banking offerings and it doesn’t have a mobile app for small businesses. However, it hasn’t completely ignored the segment either. Lloyds has created a banking platform for its small business owners that includes international payments, individual limits and access control for users, bulk payment options and forecasting tools.
After spending quite some time looking at the world of banking through the eyes of a potential customer and a small business owner, it’s clear that analysts are making a fair point. The banks above have all made admirable inroads in providing a more effective services that will help small business grow and take control of their finances but many other banks haven’t, particularly when it comes to mobile channels. The next few years are likely to prove very interesting as banks realize that the SME segment is one of the few where significant gains can be made if they can start providing a better service than their competitors.