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Business confidence in high street banks improving, says ICAEW

By CreditMan Thursday, August 28, 2014

New research by ICAEW shows that while companies are feeling confident in their relationships with high street banks, there are concerns that small and micro businesses don't have as strong a relationship. A survey of over 500 ICAEW Chartered Accountants leading businesses in the UK has shown that 74% feel that their bank understands their business, and an overwhelming majority are successful in renewing their loan or overdraft facilities.

The survey has found that banks are lending and renewing overdrafts in the vast majority of cases. Most businesses aren't switching, and 82% would not consider going to a peer-to-peer lender. Nearly half of businesses (44%) believe that they don't have a need for new finance. This suggests that businesses are still sitting on cash, possibly around uncertainty over interest rates and the Eurozone.

The research suggests that there is finance available, and now it's time for businesses to turn the corner, invest, and drive the recovery. It also shows that companies don't tend to look outside the box for funding, and a greater awareness of options for finance, as seen in the ICAEW Business Finance Guide, would benefit businesses.

Key findings from the research:

* 40% of micro/small firms would want a closer relationship with their bank
* 74% believe that the bank understands their business
* Less than one in four (24%) have little confidence in the high street banks, but this rises to 41% when looking at small / micro businesses
* Increased competition would offer better choices of finance
* 71% of companies disagree with the view that new networks of regional community banks would boost their business lending
* 85% of those who tried to renew a loan or overdraft did it with the same bank, and 93% of those were successful
* However 55% feel that they don't need any additional finance in the next 12 months, suggesting that they are sitting on cash reserves
* 82% would not go to peer-to-peer lending, perhaps reflective of the confidence that firms have in high street banks, or lack of confidence in alternative finance providers

Commenting, Stephen Ibbotson, ICAEW Director of Business, said:

“It is reassuring to see that businesses and banks have an improved relationship, given the tales of woe we have heard anecdotally in recent years. Most of the loan and overdraft requests are granted, and this has led to increased confidence in the sector. And while a majority of businesses are aware of peer-to-peer lending, most wouldn't consider moving to alternative sources of finance.

“There are some concerns. Small and micro businesses are still struggling to establish a good relationship with their bank, with nearly a third feeling that they are not understood by their bank. It seems clear that getting good financial advice is critical for those firms if they seek to grow. Perhaps more worryingly, 55% of businesses aren't envisaging needing any additional finance in the next year.

“The research shows that all the ducks are in a row. The finance is there for those who want it, and relationships with the high street banks are on the up in most cases. However if the recovery is to be sustainable this must transfer across to businesses of all sizes, and not just medium and large firms.”