High streets banks are ‘keeping billions’ from Britain’s SMEs

A new report highlights the disparity between the deals offered by the UK's big banks to larger corporations and smaller businesses.

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Research by Allica Bank has found a hidden savings penalty of more than £7.5bn a year for SME bank customers who are facing what it calls an “equally tough cost-of-business crisis.”

The hidden savings penalty includes SMEs being denied the same higher savings rates that larger companies are routinely offered by the big banks. 

There are approximately £275bn of SME deposits in the UK. Using Bank of England interest rates alongside interest rate data from individual banks, Allica’s new research found that £150bn of SME deposits are in current accounts that offer no interest.

In addition, £125bn of SME savings are in accounts offering interest, but are subject to a hidden SME penalty because big banks are routinely offering large companies higher interest rates on their savings compared to the rates they offer small businesses.

Missing money

The average difference between interest rates offered to large companies compared to SMEs is currently more than 2% – covering both instant access and term/notice deposit accounts.

Overall, this means that SMEs are collectively being denied more than £7.5bn in savings interest annually – £150bn being denied 3.5% savings interest totals £5.25bn, and £125bn being denied on average 2% higher rates available to larger companies comes to £2.5bn.

Allica claims banks take advantage of the fact that small business owners rarely have time to shop around to get a good deal – unlike, it says, the treasury departments of corporate customers.

Allica has written to treasury select committee, asking it to look at the UK’s business savings market in closer detail to ensure that all banks are doing their level best to pass on interest rate rises to small firms, small business owners are treated fairly compared to larger companies, and far greater levels of transparency are introduced into the savings market for SMEs.

The bank has also asked the committee to ensure Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) limits are not enabling banks to keep interest rates low – and consider if current FSCS limits should be increased from £85k to £250k for small businesses to remove any potential fears SMEs may have of holding large balances with one single bank.

“Despite [SMEs] being the engine room of the economy, contributing a third of GDP, they have been neglected for too long and business banking is increasingly impersonal, inconvenient and of poor value,” says Richard Davies, CEO of Allica Bank.

“Our research shows this is particularly true for SME savings, where SMEs are getting a raw deal with the big banks – it’s a scandal they’re missing out on more than £7.5bn of interest on their hard-earned cash every year.”

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Kirstie Pickering - business journalist

Kirstie is a freelance journalist writing in the tech, startup and business spaces for publications including Sifted, TNW, UKTN, The Business Magazine and Maddyness UK. She also works closely with agencies such as CEW Communications to develop content for their startup and scaleup clients.

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