Finance · 23 October 2018

Lenders offering poor digital service risk losing small businesses to challenger banks

Barclays closed around 68 bank branches in 2017

Small business owners are calling on high street banks to ramp up their technological innovations or they will switch to digital rivals, new survey findings have found.

A new study, by Unisys Corporation, looking at SME attitudes to banking providers, found that although business owners had high-levels of satisfaction with traditional firms, many said they were “significantly frustrated” with the technology they were offering.

This, small business owners claimed, stops them from accessing the banking services they need to flourish.

The survey found that 83% of SMEs use mobile banking with almost all using online banking. Trust was cited as the main reason for staying with current banking providers.

Whilst businesses said they find technology critical to their business, 39% of SMEs said they regularly experience technological problems that stop them access the banking services they require, with 8% saying this happens “every time”.

Almost half of 47 small firms said they would move to a challenger bank, digital bank or non-banking brand if they did decide to switch, more so than an established banking brand.


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One in six SMEs surveyed said they are already looking to switch in the next 12 months, with the main incentives being if providers can better meet their needs. Over half said they would value an app that gave them access to all their banking facilities in one place, and more than one-third said they were comfortable with having little to no human interaction with their business banking interactions. 

“SMEs are tech-savvy with, often, a higher uptake of online and mobile services than most consumers, and yet many experience technical difficulties regularly,” commented Simon Healy, industry director for Unisys Financial Services, EMEA.

“They see the use of technology by banks as critical to retention, but also in the development of new and innovative propositions that can enable their business.” 

Regarding Open Banking – the sharing of customer bank data with third-party providers – whilst awareness of it was high, understanding was low. Only 28% of SMEs said they had a strong knowledge of it with a third stating that they had either not heard of it or did not understand it.

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