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Small Business Banking - UK - December 2013

“The small business banking market is afflicted by low levels of competition and low levels of customer churn, but this could be about to change. As more small business customers become aware of new faster switching times and are better able to make comparisons between providers, more are likely to consider changing banks.”

– Sarah Hitchcock, Senior Analyst – Financial Services

Some questions answered in this report include:

  • What potential is there to improve take-up of the small business bank accounts?
  • What account features do small business customers consider the most important?
  • Are small business customers more likely to switch now simply because it’s quicker to do so?
  • How successful are the banks at selling additional products to their small business customers?

The UK market for small business banking is mature and heavily consolidated. A handful of providers – in the form of the largest banking groups – control the majority of the market, and hence competition is fairly limited. This may now be slowly starting to change, with the introduction of faster account switching times, the arrival of two new high street brands and the emergence of alternative/direct-only providers.

Despite the market’s maturity, there is scope for new entrants to expand the market further and make a dent in the big four’s share, by developing innovative and attractively-priced products. Research suggests that around a quarter of the small business population lack a business bank account. Take-up is particularly low among sole traders, many of whom continue to use free-if-in-credit personal current accounts to manage their day-to-day finances.

Against a backdrop of a strengthening economic recovery, along with new initiatives to encourage competition and improve access to finance, this is an interesting time to be looking at the small business banking market. Drawing on a range of sources and statistics, Mintel’s report provides an overview of the current market situation and highlights potential opportunities. The market analysis is complemented by the findings of Mintel’s survey of small business owners.

This research aims to provide an insight into the experiences, attitudes and behaviours of the target population. Among other things, it assesses levels of customer satisfaction, reveals recent borrowing activity and determines the likelihood of customers of switching accounts.

There is no single definition of a small firm, mainly because of the wide diversity of businesses. However, the Department for Business Innovation and Skills (BIS) uses the following definitions:
Micro firm: 0-9 employees
Small firm: 0-49 employees (includes micro)
Medium firm: 50-249 employees
Large firm: over 250 employees.

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction

      • Market definition
        • Abbreviations
        • Executive Summary

            • The market
              • Current market size and value
                • Strong growth in small business deposits forecast
                  • Figure 1: Forecast of small business banking deposit balances, at current prices – fan chart, 2008-18
                • Number of small business current accounts falls short of the number of small firms
                  • Figure 2: Number of small firms and small business current and savings accounts, 2008-13
                • Value of outstanding lending has edged lower over the past couple of years
                  • Figure 3: Small business lending, by total balances, 2008-13
                • Market factors
                  • Size of the small business population
                    • Market competition and access to finance
                      • Improving economic backdrop
                        • Companies, brands and innovation
                          • The big banks dominate this market
                            • Figure 4: Estimated small business customer share by top five banking groups (based on where business account is held), October 2013
                          • Few new product launches, but some new players
                            • Heightened increase in adspend
                              • The small business customer
                                • Most small businesses are in moderate-to-good financial health
                                  • Figure 5: Current financial situation of the business, by firm size, October 2013
                                • Improving prospects
                                  • Take-up of business bank accounts
                                    • Figure 6: Type of account used to manage business finances, by firm size, October 2013
                                  • Cost is key
                                    • Figure 7: Account features and services considered most important, October 2013
                                  • Customer satisfaction levels are reasonably high…
                                    • Figure 8: Level of satisfaction with business banking provider, October 2013
                                  • …but switching intentions are fairly strong
                                    • Figure 9: Likelihood of switching banking provider over the next 12 months, October 2013
                                  • Top reasons to switch
                                    • Recent borrowing activity
                                      • Take-up of other products
                                        • Figure 10: Other financial products owned and arranged with business banking provider, October 2013
                                      • What we think
                                      • Issues in the Market

                                          • What potential is there to improve take-up of the small business bank accounts?
                                            • What account features do small business customers consider the most important?
                                              • Are small business customers more likely to switch now simply because it’s quicker to do so?
                                                • How successful are the banks at selling additional products to their small business customers?
                                                • Trend Application

                                                  • Small firms need to be convinced of the benefits of business accounts
                                                    • Using technology to help address grievances and improve satisfaction
                                                      • Mobile banking services are important to nearly a quarter of small business owners
                                                      • Market Drivers

                                                        • Key points
                                                          • Meeting the banking needs of small business is high on the political agenda
                                                            • OFT reviews SME banking
                                                              • New faster account switching service
                                                                • FSB launches a new survey to find best SME bank in Britain
                                                                  • Small businesses draw on a diverse range of finance options
                                                                    • Figure 11: Sources of finance used in the past year, November 2011
                                                                  • Over the past five years there has been a general reduction in bank lending to small businesses
                                                                    • Figure 12: New term lending to small businesses (monthly basis), October 2008-June 2013
                                                                  • Recent government efforts to get the banks lending
                                                                    • Research suggests spreads on SME lending may have contracted recently, despite indicative loan rates showing little change
                                                                      • Figure 13: Indicative lending rates to SMEs, effective loan rate to PNFCs and official bank base rate, November 2008-Auguust 2013
                                                                    • A benevolent macro-economic environment is crucial for small business growth
                                                                      • Still some areas of concern…
                                                                        • … but the services sector sees an increase in profitability…
                                                                          • Figure 14: Net rate of return of private non-financial corporations, 2003 Q1-2013 Q2
                                                                        • …and confidence among small businesses picks up
                                                                          • Figure 15: Small business confidence index, 2010 Q1-2013 Q3
                                                                        • Number of corporate insolvencies continues to fall
                                                                          • Figure 16: UK corporate insolvencies (not seasonally adjusted) 2003-13
                                                                      • Small Business Population

                                                                        • Key points
                                                                          • Small firms’ contribution to the economy is no minor feat
                                                                            • Figure 17: Number of UK private-sector businesses, employment size and turnover, January 2013
                                                                          • Around three in five small firms are sole traders
                                                                            • Figure 18: Proportional distribution of small businesses, by legal status, January 2013
                                                                          • Self-employed population growing strongly
                                                                            • Figure 19: Number of self-employed and employees – UK, 2008-13
                                                                          • Nearly a fifth of all private-sector firms operate in the construction industry
                                                                            • Figure 20: Number of private sector businesses, by industry sector and size (number of employees), January 2013
                                                                        • Market SWOT Analysis

                                                                            • Figure 21: Small business banking market – SWOT analysis, 2013
                                                                        • Who’s Innovating?

                                                                          • Key points
                                                                            • Barclays launches new current account for small businesses…
                                                                              • … and introduces ‘instant’ business loans
                                                                                • RBS plans to revive the Williams & Glyn’s brand to create a new challenger bank
                                                                                  • TSB also returns to the high street
                                                                                    • Government creates ‘new business bank’ to improve cash flow to SMEs
                                                                                      • Cashplus launches ‘alternative’ business account with no credit check
                                                                                        • CashFlows introduces a new holistic business banking service
                                                                                        • Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                          • Key points
                                                                                            • Recovery in the number of small business current accounts gathers pace…
                                                                                              • Figure 22: Number of small business current accounts, by type, 2008-13
                                                                                            • … but there’s considerable scope for future expansion
                                                                                              • Small business deposits also rise strongly
                                                                                                • Figure 23: Number of small business current and savings accounts, and total account balances, 2008-13
                                                                                              • A much larger share of small business banking money is held in current accounts than in savings accounts
                                                                                                • Figure 24: Number and value of small business current and saving accounts and average account balance, 2011-13
                                                                                              • Very steady growth trend is forecast to continue
                                                                                                • Figure 25: Forecast of small business deposit account balances, at current prices – fan chart, 2008-18
                                                                                                • Figure 26: Forecast of small business deposit account balances, 2013-18
                                                                                              • Forecast methodology
                                                                                                • Fan chart explanation
                                                                                                • Small Business Lending

                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                    • Outstanding small business debt continues to steadily recede
                                                                                                      • Figure 27: Small business lending (total balances), 2008-13
                                                                                                    • Term loans account for the majority of bank lending to small businesses
                                                                                                      • Figure 28: Number of small term loans and amounts outstanding, 2008-12
                                                                                                    • Average small business overdraft balances fell by 25% between 2008 and 2012
                                                                                                      • Figure 29: Number of small business accounts overdrawn and amounts outstanding, 2008-12
                                                                                                  • Market Share

                                                                                                    • Key points
                                                                                                      • Small businesses are offered a limited choice of banking providers
                                                                                                        • Figure 30: Bank where business account is held, October 2013
                                                                                                      • RBS plans to move ahead of its rivals and become the number one bank for SMEs
                                                                                                        • Nationwide delays entry into market
                                                                                                        • Companies and Products

                                                                                                            • HSBC
                                                                                                              • Company description
                                                                                                                • Market position
                                                                                                                  • Distribution mix
                                                                                                                    • Business banking product range
                                                                                                                      • Recent financial performance
                                                                                                                        • Figure 31: Key annual financial data for HSBC Bank Plc, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                                                      • Recent activity
                                                                                                                        • Lloyds Banking Group
                                                                                                                          • Description
                                                                                                                            • Market position
                                                                                                                              • Distribution mix
                                                                                                                                • Business banking product range
                                                                                                                                  • Recent financial performance
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 32: Key annual financial data for Lloyds Banking Group, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                                                                  • Recent activity
                                                                                                                                    • RBS Group
                                                                                                                                      • Description
                                                                                                                                        • Market position
                                                                                                                                          • Distribution mix
                                                                                                                                            • Business banking product range
                                                                                                                                              • Recent financial performance
                                                                                                                                                • Figure 33: Key annual financial data for RBS Group, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                                                                              • Recent activity
                                                                                                                                                • Barclays
                                                                                                                                                  • Company description
                                                                                                                                                    • Market position
                                                                                                                                                      • Distribution mix
                                                                                                                                                        • Business banking product range
                                                                                                                                                          • Recent financial performance
                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 34: Key annual financial data for Barclays Plc, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                                                                                          • Recent activity
                                                                                                                                                            • Santander
                                                                                                                                                              • Company description
                                                                                                                                                                • Distribution mix
                                                                                                                                                                  • Market position
                                                                                                                                                                    • Business banking product range
                                                                                                                                                                      • Recent financial performance
                                                                                                                                                                        • Figure 35: Key annual financial data for Santander UK, 2011 and 2012
                                                                                                                                                                      • Recent activity
                                                                                                                                                                      • Brand Communication and Promotion

                                                                                                                                                                        • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                          • Increased adspend as the banks seek to reinforce their brands
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 36: Advertising expenditure on business banking services, by product category, 2009-13
                                                                                                                                                                          • Barclays is the number one advertiser of business banking services
                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 37: Advertising expenditure on business banking services, by the top seven providers of small business bank accounts, 2009-13
                                                                                                                                                                          • NatWest’s ‘Ahead for Business’ campaign
                                                                                                                                                                            • The press attracts the largest share of adspend
                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 38: Proportional distribution of adspend on business banking services, by media type, 2011-13
                                                                                                                                                                            • A note on adspend
                                                                                                                                                                            • The Small Business Owner

                                                                                                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                                • Survey background
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 39: Segmentation of sample by size of business (based on number of employees), October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 40: Segmentation of sample by legal status of business, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                • Just over a quarter of small firms operate in the business services sector
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 41: Industry sector that business is active in, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                • Just 3% have been trading less than a year
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 42: Length of time trading, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                • One in six is only just managing to get by or is facing difficulties
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 43: Current financial situation of the business, by firm size, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                • Financial situations improve the longer a business has been trading
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 44: Current financial situation of the business, by legal status and length of time trading, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                • Manufacturers and retailers are in relatively good shape
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 45: Current financial situation of the business, by industry sector, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                • Half of all small business owners are confident about their financial prospects over the coming year
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 46: Expected financial situation over the coming 12 months, by firm size, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                • Firms that have been trading for longer are more confident about their future prospects
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 47: Expected financial situation over the coming 12 months, by legal status and length of time trading, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                • Confidence levels are reasonably high across all sectors
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 48: Expected financial situation over the coming 12 months, by industry sector, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                              • Ownership of Business Bank Accounts

                                                                                                                                                                                • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                                  • One in four small business owners don’t have a business bank account
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 49: Type of account used to manage business finances, by legal status, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Ownership increases the longer a firm has been trading
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 50: Type of account used to manage business finances, by firm size and length of time trading, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Take-up varies according to industry sector
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 51: Type of account used to manage business finances, by industry sector, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Barclays is a firm favourite among small firms with 11-100 employees
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 52: Bank where business account is held, by firm size, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Roughly half of all small business customers belonging to the top four banks have held their account for more than ten years
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 53: length of time business bank account held, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                • Assessing Customer Needs and Satisfaction

                                                                                                                                                                                  • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                                    • What most small business customers want from their banks are low maintenance and transaction charges
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 54: Account features and services considered most important, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Access to a personal relationship manager is also viewed as essential by many
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Around two in five consider access to an overdraft of paramount importance…
                                                                                                                                                                                        • …while one in five puts more onus on extended branch opening
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Roughly two in five chose to take out the business account offered by their personal current account provider
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 55: Factors influencing choice of business banking provider, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Most small business customers are satisfied with the business banking provider…
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 56: Level of satisfaction with business banking provider, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                          • …but only 13% trust their bank to act in their best interests
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 57: Agreement with statements about business bank accounts, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                          • A third of small business account customers say it’s difficult to compare the fees charged by different banks
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Switching Experience and Intentions

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Small business customers are a pretty loyal bunch…
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 58: Switched business bank account provider in the past five years, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                              • …but the faster switching service could change all that
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 59: Switching intentions over the next 12 months, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                              • An increase in account charges would prompt around three in five small business customers to switch
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 60: Factors that would encourage switching, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Other Products Held and Access to Finance

                                                                                                                                                                                              • Key points
                                                                                                                                                                                                • The banks are least effective at cross-selling insurance to their small business customers…
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 61: Other financial products owned and arranged with business banking provider, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                                • … and the most effective at cross-selling overdrafts and loans
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • One in five small businesses who have needed to borrow money in the past three years have been refused credit
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 62: Experience of accessing finance, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Partnership and companies have a greater need for finance
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 63: Experience of accessing finance, by firm size and length of time trading, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Firms that have been trading for longer are less likely to be declined credit
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 64: Experience of accessing finance, by firm size and length of time trading, October 2013
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Appendix – Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Total market forecast – best- and worst-case scenarios
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 65: Forecast of small business deposit account balances – best- and worst-case scenarios, at current prices, 2013-18
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Forecast of the number of small business current accounts
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Figure 66: Forecast of the number of small business current accounts, 2008-18
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Forecast methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Fan chart explanation

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Companies Covered

                                                                                                                                                                                                    To learn more about the companies covered in this report please contact us.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    Small Business Banking - UK - December 2013

                                                                                                                                                                                                    US $2,583.33 (Excl.Tax)