SMEs loose faith in big banks’ services

The big four retail banks have drawn more fire from the business community, according to a study from the Federation of Small Businesses.

According to a recent survey conducted by the FSB, small businesses are even more dissatisfied with the standard of service from the big four banks than they were two years ago, with 61% saying they were unhappy with the level of bank loan and overdraft charges.

Small enterprises have also given government-funded support services, such as the Business Link network, the thumbs-down saying that they prefer to use accountants as primary sources of business advice, according to the report.

Only 10% are happy with the advice from Business Links, while accountants topped the satisfaction ratings with 68% of those who had sought professional advice in the last year rating them highly, followed by banks at 39%, trade associations at 38% and fellow business owners at 37%.

The report, entitled Lifting the barriers to growth in UK small businesses, cited crime (42%), the cost of banking services; time and cost constraints on employee training, provision of local services and burgeoning red tape as the main barriers to growth.

But the report also highlights encouraging signs of optimism among small businesses. Some 41% said sales had gone up over the past twelve months, with 9% saying sales had gone up considerably over the last year.

A quarter said they had taken on new staff.

Over half of those questioned stated that they wanted their business to expand moderately (52%) or substantially (13%) in the near future, with younger business managers aspiring to lead the expansion charge.

FSB policy chairman John Walker, said: ‘Most of the UKs small firms have weathered recent difficulties and reported steady trading figures for the last twelve months. The survey shows owner managers have large expansion plans, positive business forecasts and big ambitions. Collectively, this snapshot clearly demonstrates the strength, confidence and international focus of the small-business sector.’

The study brought together responses from 18,500 small businesses and was carried out by researchers at the University of Strathclyde.

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