SMEs, E-money Accounts and Traditional Banking Services
A new bank account model fit for the digital age?
Recent Greengage research asked around 70 business entrepreneurs and SMEs to rate their experience of banking and payments services. We wanted to know specifically if this vital market segment was receiving services that met their genuine business needs, or whether they felt that more could be done to support them.
Nearly half of the businesses polled in our research said that they were less than satisfied with their account provider. This was particularly the case for those involved in digital assets and/or cryptocurrencies, who were more likely to have a less than satisfactory relationship with their account provider.
Customer service levels were rated as mediocre overall by survey respondents, with those involved in digital asset and crypto-related activities rating customer service even lower. This may in part be because this industry segment is more digitally savvy and may therefore have higher expectations of customer service levels with respect to facilitating deposits, transfers and payments for and in digital assets including cryptocurrency. Based on these results — and anecdotal evidence from the many conversations we have with this market segment — also because this group has had, historically, difficulty opening bank accounts at all and generally has a more problematic experience with traditional banks.
“Companies involved in cryptoassets face many undue obstacles when trying to access banking services from major banks. Consequently, they often have to settle for overseas accounts or considerably higher fees than other client groups.”
Simon Jennings, Executive Director of the UK Cryptoasset Business Council (UKCBC)
As our research shows, while respondents overwhelmingly rated security, trust, and ease of access as their top criteria for selecting an account provider, these are conversely the reasons why traditional banks have been somewhat slow on the uptake with respect to welcoming business from firms operating in ‘new’ digital markets. It is traditional banks’ reluctance to embrace the new that has led to the creation in very short order of more than 400 e-money institutions in Europe, of which some 230+ are in the UK.
58.8% of all respondents had traditional bank accounts; 13.2% had an E-money account; 28.0% had both types of account.
· For those with digital assets or cryptocurrencies as a core focus of their business, more than half (54.2%) were less than satisfied with their current account provider.
· 58.3% of these businesses rated the customer services of their account provider as 3/5 or less; 33.3% rated it as 2/5 or less.
While businesses with an interest in digital assets had a worse customer experience with account providers, our research also reflects that there is considerable demand for digital-led banking services, with a concomitant willingness to pay more to receive better service.
“The banks and payments entities we engage with take an overly conservative view on organisations dealing with crypto related activity, even if an entity acts purely as a vendor and not a counterparty to a transaction. [There] is a need for banks and payments providers to take an objective view for KYC/ AML, as it can be a method of equivalence with other forms of activity and enable them to provide a service in this space, which is cost effective and scalable.”
Hirander Misra, CEO of GMEX Group
Interestingly, those businesses with a traditional bank account AND an e-money account experienced greater levels of customer satisfaction than those with only one (regardless of the type of sole account held). This suggests that rather than simply paying incumbent providers more to receive a higher level of service, or switching to a more expensive provider in the hope of the same, a better short-term solution for an improved customer experience for this market segment is to have both types of account.
Figure 1: Cumulative scores based on how important the service / quality is to respondents for an account provider to have
Looking at the results more closely, all respondents rated the ‘soft’ elements of service provision (e.g. know the customer, long term relationship, dedicated account manager) more highly than credit, bespoke business advice and (above all else) cross-selling of other of their products and services.
While those with little or no interest in digital assets may have had lower rates of ambivalence and dissatisfaction, our research clearly suggests that those that ARE involved in this area are currently underserved. As a service provider in this space, this is one of the key takeaways for Greengage from our research. It is not only a question of finding service providers willing to take on this important and growing segment, but about finding providers who understand the digital asset business and its unique nuances and who will work with them in a continuing relationship for the long term.
“The speed of banking and payment service providers is crucial, but the quality of the service must not be compromised for the sake of speed. Automation / AI can solve simple everyday problems quickly, but human assistance is irreplaceable when it comes to the complex issues many customers face with their accounts.”
Charlotte Hill, Senior Associate, Penningtons Manches Cooper
To learn more, listen to our podcast series, The Gage Episode 8 — What SMEs Want in Banking Services: Greengage Survey Findings
Read our latest whitepaper ‘Greengage SME / Digital Asset Banking Services Survey Findings’