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Saturday, January 25, 2020

Opinion > TSB

When it comes to business, banks need to embrace the past as well as the future

Catherine Douglas, SME banking director at TSB | 12:00 Wednesday 25th December 2019

Earlier this month, TSB chief executive Debbie Crosbie launched our new business strategy, setting out what we plan to achieve over the next three-years.

Our customers are at the heart of this strategy as we aim to deliver money confidence for everyone, every day. This extends to the many businesses that bank with us, as we plan to continue to invest in our business banking offering. At TSB, this means working with some of the smallest businesses and entrepreneurs, from start-ups to sole traders and those working in the gig-economy. At a time when smaller businesses are contending with seismic change, it is more important than ever that banks are there to provide the support they need to flourish.

Challenges facing SMEs

Businesses come in all shapes and sizes, and the route from scrappy start-up to established corporate is no longer straightforward. The banking needs of small and medium enterprises are, therefore, changing dramatically, and banks’ responses must adapt to reflect this. These challenges have been recognised by policy makers, with increased scrutiny of business banking from both government and regulators eager to ensure that this is an area which fosters innovation and competition.

By some estimates there are nearly six million SMEs in the UK today, accounting for 51% of all private sector turnover. The growth of these businesses throws up all kinds of complex needs and requirements, challenging banks to provide better products more tailored to the needs of smaller enterprises. It isn’t enough for banks and other financial service providers to tweak existing products, instead we must offer products that respond to the diverse and changing needs of the businesses with which we work. Digital channels will be at the heart of this process, digital platforms are crucial for many smaller businesses and they rightly expect to have their financial services available in this way, too. However, isn’t it important not to lose sight of the value of innovative products and personalised advice in the dash to roll out new digital services? That’s what we think at TSB.

Our solution

As part of our investment in our business banking offering, TSB has introduced regular drop-in advice clinics in 25 of our branches. Delivered in partnership with Enterprise Nation, these offer participating businesses with advice and guidance around a number of issues, ranging from online accounting to digital admin tasks. Elsewhere, we have not lost sight of the needs of our customers outside of digital services. On the contrary, TSB is expanding our network of field relationship managers and brokers, providing small businesses with fresh thinking and advice which can unlock their potential and help reinvigorate the communities which host them. We also have plans to add to the products and services we are offering in this space, building on our market-leading offers of 25 months free banking, 1% interest rate on savings accounts and a fast-tracked business current account application process.

While the attention of many has been fixed on the emergence of fintechs, there continues to be a significant opportunity for high street banks, such as TSB, to grow their business banking customer footprint. Indeed, in the past year alone, TSB has grown its customer base to 105,000. We have done this by adjusting our products and services to the needs of smaller businesses, effectively combining digital products with more traditional banking services. Going forward, we believe that it is this combination of a deep knowledge of customers’ unique needs and an ability to meet these through digital and traditional banking services that will enable banks to succeed in offering competitive products and services to business customers.

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