Finance · 8 August 2017

British bank spotlight: What to expect from HSBC business banking

Gareth Allen, founder of META
Gareth Allen, founder of META

To find out more about how HSBC’s wider offering has been experienced by its entrepreneurial customers, we spoke to Gareth Allen, founder of digital agency META and a user of HSBC business banking since the formation of his company in 2013.

Particular beneficial in the early days of Allen’s company was the provision of free banking.

“In our early days setting up META, as any business owner will tell you, every penny counts. Having our first 18 months of HSBC business banking free of charge really helped – it was one less monthly bill to have to think about,” the founder told Business Advice.

“HSBC’s business banking tariff is also very competitive, whereas some other banks charge to make and receive payments or use credit and debit cards.”

As the leader of a digital agency, Allen has also taken advantage of the capabilities available through online banking. Allen noted that his business no longer has a real need for traditional “over the counter” banking services.

Meanwhile, full integration of Allen’s online accounting software and business bank account has been instrumental in ensuring day to day accounting and reconciliation processes were streamlined “seamlessly”.

Allen recently secured a commercial mortgage with HSBC to assist with his company’s expansion plans through into 2018.

“We’ve opted for a variable rate, meaning we can make overpayments as and when we want to, which suits the business. We’ve also got the option to take payment breaks for up to two months in any year – hopefully this won’t be required, but it’s nice to know the option is there if we want it.”

Having now had the company’s lending request approved, he noted his positive experience in dealing with HSBC’s commercial banking centre.

“Having a bank like HSBC that supports small businesses is certainly reassuring during the current economic climate,” Allen added.

We went back to Cliffe to find out what makes the lender’s business banking proposition stand out from the numerous competitors.

“The first thing would be our people,” he said. “We’ve got 2,000 colleagues in branches, contact centres and commercial offices passionate about supporting small business owners and helping them to grow. Those people are constantly listening to our customers and the challenges they face.”

To demonstrate how on-the-ground dialogue between bank and borrower can inform the bank’s broader strategy, Cliffe recalled one HSBC business banking customer who made an “extremely honest and frank admission” to her advisor. The business owner confessed that when faced with a hiring decision between a male or a female of “child-bearing age”, she would hire the male to avoid the cost and disruption of losing a key staff member.

“We heard that and recognised the massive issue to small business – it impacts on diversity in the workplace, but while a lot has been done to support working parents, nothing existed support small business owners creating employment and bearing the burden of parental leave.

In response, Cliffe explained, HSBC created a Parental Leave Support package, giving business owners employing up to five employees, with up to £1m turnover, a 12-month capital repayment holiday on any HSBC loan account. Subject to criteria, applicants also receive a £5,000 interest and fee-free overdraft for a year.

“The idea is to boost their cash flow and keep their business moving, by hiring a contractor for example. Nobody expected a bank to come out with a package like that, and we recently won an innovation award for it.”

To see how HSBC business banking fares against rival offerings, take a look at what to expect from NatWest business banking

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Simon Caldwell is a reporter for Business Advice. He has a BA in politics and communications from the University of Liverpool, and previously worked as a content editor in the ecommerce industry.

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