Nearly three quarters of SMEs (70 per cent) say their bank actively discriminates against them in favour of larger companies, according to new research from HedgeFlows, a fintech platform.
The findings were contained in a survey of 500 UK SMEs, conducted by independent polling agency Censuswide. The research quizzed industry chiefs about access to finance, support and tools for international expansion.
A shocking 72 per cent of SME owners say their bank provides very limited support around international payments. Further support is necessary to bridge the gap and provide the confidence to expand. A substantial majority also feel ignored by their bank with 73 per cent saying they struggle to secure a meeting with their bank or financial manager, leading to delays in their business plans.
SME bosses also said plans for international and overseas trade were scuppered by high trading costs. Seventy two per cent said they felt bank transfer fees abroad were too high and should be reduced for smaller companies.
Worryingly, 69 per cent said their company would benefit from international expansion, but 65 per cent currently lack the financial expertise to open an office overseas. Additionally, 78 per cent admitted that their company has limited cash reserves in the face of rising inflation and an uncertain economy.
Providing new opportunities for UK SMEs
Neh Thaker, co-founder of HedgeFlows, comments: “SMEs are the beating heart of the UK economy, creating jobs and driving crucial growth in uncertain times. It’s absurd that so many of our most ambitious and fast-growing businesses feel left out in the cold by their bank and unable to access the level of service enjoyed by their super-size counterparts.
“The time has come to equip SMEs with a level playing field to expand internationally, giving them access to a suite of services required to manage overseas transactions, currency conversions and cashflows. These privileges are already enjoyed by larger enterprises and should be available to businesses of all sizes.”
Speaking exclusively to The Fintech Times, Thaker added: “Business growth and economic stability often go hand in hand so it is vital that financial institutions do their utmost to provide the support to allow SMEs to thrive, in turn boosting the economy.
“This can help to promote the UK as a leading hub to conduct business internationally and continue to open up opportunities for businesses. The financial services sector must now work closely with SMEs to provide access to services to ensure a level playing field and catapult the business economy.”