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1 Saving SMEs An analysis of the business savings market November 2014 aldermore.co.uk

2 Contents Foreword: Small is beautiful Executive Summary National trends Regional trends Sectoral trends Contact A note on the methodology The following research was conducted by an online interview administered by members of the YouGov Plc GB. This survey was through YouGov s Small Business Omnibus asking questions to businesses with fewer than 50 employees. s are sent to panellists selected at random from the base sample. All respondents claim to be senior decision-makers and above from private sector businesses, as follows: Owner/ Proprietor, Partner, Chairperson, Chief Executive, Managing Director, Non-Executive Director, Other board level manager/ director, Other senior manager or director below board level. The survey targets the following industries within the sample, aiming for at least 50 complete in those highlighted: Manufacturing, Construction, Retail, Hospitality and leisure, IT and telecoms, Media/ marketing/ advertising/ PR and sales. The survey provides results across 10 regions in Great Britain with a sample size of 50 minimum. The regions are London, East, Midlands, South East, South West, North East, North West, Yorkshire and Humber, Wales, Scotland. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1,005 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 26th August - 2nd September The survey was carried out online. Savings Research

3 Foreword: Small is beautiful If you listen to any political speech today, then it s more than likely that they will commend the work and energy of UK small and medium-sized enterprise s (SMEs). Any person willing to take that risk to build a better life for themselves and their family deserves a huge amount of credit and reward. Yet, besides being the lifeblood or backbone of our economy, do we have a better definition of what a modern day SME is and how they work day-to-day? The business pages of most national newspapers focus heavily on the ups and downs of the UK s biggest companies, but we have little insight into the banking needs of the UK s smallest businesses. The word SME is amorphous in itself. The most recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) in August shows that more Britons than ever are now self-employed. In spite of the economic recovery, the trend is increasing and now 4.6 million categorise themselves as self-employed around 15% of the total workforce. This leads to questions about how banks and financial institutions address this growing group of customers. Ultimately, what do they want and need from their bank? And of course, they are not a homogenous category; they will all have different needs for their business. Aldermore was formed in 2009, during the economic downturn, with a particular focus on UK SMEs. We value every single one of our customer relationships and regularly speak to them to get a better understanding of what is happening on the ground. This research builds upon those day-to-day interactions and wider trends in the economy to ascertain the thoughts of SMEs in Great Britain. What are their current savings habits? What are they saving for in particular? Do they believe their bank understands their business needs? Would they welcome an interest rate rise? I believe the research over the following pages gives a good insight into what SMEs are thinking, from sole traders to businesses employing up to 50 people. However, it does not and should not stop here. It is up to us and the wider banking sector to listen to our customers and their needs, and ensure that what we see and hear is reflected in our products and services. We must tailor the way we function to ensure it works for all types of businesses, no matter their size, age and the sector in which they operate. We need to make sure we are working as hard as they do. Simon Healy is the Managing Director for savings at Aldermore Savings Research

4 Executive Summary Understanding the needs, desires and thoughts of the modern small business in Great Britain is no easy feat. SMEs are nimbler and technologically-savvy, and therefore becoming more difficult to define under one particular group. While their priorities are naturally the running of their day-to-day businesses, the research points to a number of interesting trends into how they approach their banking and more specifically their savings, as well as to how the market operates as a whole. Many small and medium-sized businesses do not see savings as a dayto-day priority. Just under a third (31%) of businesses said they have a savings account with sole traders (16%) being the least likely to have an account. Only 21% of businesses in the North East and East Midlands said they had a business savings account. Of those surveyed that do have a savings account, 7% said they currently had nothing put away and onefifth (21%) had up to 5, % of SMEs have 50,000 to 100,000. And what are SMEs saving towards? Forty per cent of those with a savings account said they allocated money to deal with unforeseen events, with more than one-third (35%) saving towards business taxes. One of the most pointed answers from the research is that 91% of British SMEs with a business savings account held it at the same bank as their business current account. This point highlights two issues, firstly that there remains a distinct lack of competition in the market and secondly, SMEs simply aren t shopping around. Those that do have an account, there is a degree of passivity to how often they review their current deal. One quarter (25%) of SMEs said they do this on a regular basis, checking more than once every six months. Yet, many more SMEs are losing out on the best deals on the market, as 22% said they do this less than once a year, while 14% of businesses said they never review their savings accounts at all. Just under one third (32%) without a business savings account said their business didn t need a savings account, this being highest among sole traders at 41%. Twenty two per cent of businesses said they prefer to keep all their funds in their current account, rather than having a savings account at all. Fifty eight per cent of all sole-traders said they have no interest in learning about business savings, this also being highest in SMEs in the West Midlands (51%) and the South West (50%). One third (30%) of the businesses surveyed did not believe their bank understands their business banking needs, compared to one quarter (26%) who believe they do. This dissatisfaction was highest among businesses in the West Midlands (38%) and Scotland (36%). Just under a third of businesses said they have a savings account Ninety one per cent of British SMEs with a business savings account held it at the same bank as their business current account Twenty two per cent of businesses who do not hold a business savings account said they prefer to keep all their funds in their current account One third of the businesses surveyed did not believe their bank understands their business banking needs Savings Research

5 National trends There is a huge range of products on offer to British SMEs ranging from taking up a business loan to more niche products such as asset finance, but as integral as savings accounts are to personal banking, business savings accounts are not as prevalent among the SME community. Just under a third (31%) of businesses said they have a savings account with sole traders (16%) being the least likely to have one. Of those SMEs that have a business savings account, 7% said they currently had nothing put away, whereas one-fifth (21%) had up to 5,000. Thirteen per cent of SMEs have 50,000 to 100,000. Most popular business reasons for saving 40% 35% 34% 28% Of those businesses surveyed, 81% of respondents said they used at least one of the big five banks. Savings remain important for these businesses in dealing with their day-today needs. Forty per cent said they set aside money to deal with unforeseen events, while more than one-third (35%) used it for business taxes. Thirty four per cent of those with a savings account use them to help with cash fluctuations and 28% said they used them simply to earn a better amount of interest. Unforeseen events/ contingency To pay business taxes To help cashflow To earn better interest Savings Research

6 Strikingly, but perhaps unsurprisingly, the research shows that 91% of British SMEs with a business savings account held it at the same bank as their business current account. These numbers are consistent across sole traders to businesses employing up to 50 people. British businesses simply are not shopping around. There remains a degree of indifference as to how often businesses are likely to review their savings accounts. A quarter (25%) of SMEs said they do this on a regular basis, checking more than once every six months. However, 22% of businesses said they do this only once a year and the same number do it less than once a year, while 14% of businesses said they never review their savings accounts at all. In terms of the reasons why businesses don t have a savings account, just under a third of respondents (32%) said that their business didn t need one, this being highest among sole traders at 41%. Twenty two per cent of businesses said that they prefer to keep all their funds in their current account, rather than opening a savings account at all. Just under half of all SMEs (46%) said they weren t interested in learning about business savings at all, with 58% of sole traders stating they have no interest. If businesses are looking to open a savings account, then 31% said they would be most likely to look online or at comparative websites for this information, while 23% would speak to their accountant or financial adviser. SMEs had mixed views about banks. One third (30%) of the businesses surveyed do not believe their bank understands their business banking needs, compared to one quarter (26%) who believe they do. Additionally, many SMEs believe that earning a good rate of interest on cash is important for their business with 43% agreeing. As the Bank of England contemplates a future interest rate rise, what effect would this have on British SMEs and their savings habits? One third (33%) of businesses disagreed that a rate increase would have a positive effect on their business compared to 27% who believe it will. However, 69% of businesses say that an increase in interest rates will make no difference to whether they decide to save more or less. Savings Research

7 Case Study Huw Chance I C Development Aldermore Business Savings customer Huw Chance, a partner in the property investing firm I C Development, has been running his business since Based in Newbridge on Wye, Huw has steadily been building his portfolio as well as playing rugby for Wales. Four members of the team at I C Development, currently use several banking products including a business current account, a company credit card as well as a business savings account. Huw says that business savings are exceptionally important not only for I C Development, but for SMEs more widely. He says: We lived through the economic crash and saw what happened with the banks both during and after that period. For us, there is no other safety net than savings; we don t rely on unsecured borrowing from our bank, so building a savings pot is helping to future-proof our business. Huw outlined their savings strategy to date, saying: Through the early years we used most of the revenue to cover the business costs. However, now we re running a surplus, we aim to have a savings buffer to cover two years worth of mortgage repayments. He first heard about Aldermore several years ago in the press and now has several savings accounts open with the bank. We ve got an instant access one and a couple of fixed-rate accounts. I m really pleased with our relationship and appreciate their common sense approach. They keep us up-to-date via text when our terms end and we can then simply open a new account there and then. They re so much easier to deal with than the bigger banks. Huw added: Banks like Aldermore are achieving success because they look at the wider picture and not simply some figures on a screen. They re straightforward as well as safe and secure. Building a savings pot is helping to future-proof our business Savings Research

8 Regional trends Across the regions, trends tend to differ from the wider British picture. Businesses in London (38%), Wales (36%) and the West Midlands (36%) are most likely to have a business savings account, whereas SMEs in the North East and East Midlands are least likely with just over one fifth (21%) saying they do. Nine per cent of SMEs in the South East with a business savings account admitted that they currently have nothing put away. Regionally the picture reflects the national findings, showing that most SMEs tend to have their savings account with their current account holder and that most don t tend to shop around when it comes to looking for a business savings account. Business account regional breakdown Most likely to have a business savings account Top regions London 38% West Midlands 36% South East 36% Least likely to have a business savings account Bottom regions North East 21% East Midlands 21% North West 24% Savings Research

9 For SMEs that do not have a business savings account, 41% in London and 38% in the South East said they did not need one for their business, while 43% in Yorkshire and 40% in the South West said they didn t have the cash flow necessary to open one. The greatest levels of dissatisfaction were with SMEs in the West Midlands with 38% saying their bank does not understood their business needs compared to 29% who thought their bank did understand them. Scottish businesses also felt similarly, with 36% believing their bank does not understand them, whereas only 21% believe they do. Businesses in the West Midlands (51%) and South West (50%) said they were not interested in learning about business savings, while 17% of SMEs in Yorkshire and the Humber said they did not know where they would look for information on savings accounts. Businesses, particularly in Wales (40%) say they rely on the internet and comparative sights, first and foremost. While the national picture shows a selective indifference to an interest rate increase by the Bank of England, 40% of businesses in Scotland disagreed that it would have a positive impact, compared to 16% who believe the contrary. This is similar in the East of England, where 41% diagreed it would have a positive effect compared to 22% who agreed. The trend is slightly different in the South East, where 37% believe an increase would have a positive effect, compared to 32% who think otherwise. In the West Midlands, while 25% believe it will have a positive effect on their overall business, almost three-quarters (74%) say it will make no difference to whether they intend to save more into a business savings account, and 72% of SMEs in Wales feel the same way. Savings Research

10 Sectoral trends For several industries, there remain reasons, both internally and externally, as to why they do not have a business savings account. For example, 15% of both the IT and Telecoms and media and advertising industries said they could not find an attractive savings product. Furthermore, 39% of the manufacturing industry and 38% of the IT and Telecoms industry said that their businesses did not have enough cash flow to merit having a savings account. Forty four per cent of the construction and 36% of the hospitality and leisure industry said they did not need such a product. Again some industries were more positive than others regarding their relationship with their bank. One-third of all respondents in the manufacturing industry believed their bank understands their business banking needs, as opposed to 28% who didn t. Whereas 36% in the IT and Telecoms sector and 42% in Finance and Accounting believed they did not. 93% of London businesses who have both a business savings and current account hold them with the same bank 28% of Yorkshire and the Humber businesses without a business savings account prefer to keep their money in their current account Of those SMEs in the manufacturing industry who do not have a business savings account, 39% say it is because the business doesn t have excess cash flow. 44% of construction businesses without a business savings account said they did not need one Savings Research

11 Several industries were relatively bullish in their response to whether they be keen to learn more about business savings. Retail (40%), Finance and Accounting (54%) and manufacturing (45%) all disagreed. However, it is worth highlighting that most sectors felt that earning interest on cash was important for their business, particularly retail (49%), hospitality and leisure (47%) and media and advertising (42%). Most industries looking for information on a business savings account will turn to the internet or the financial adviser or accountant. Twenty eight per cent of the retail sector says it would enquire at the local branch where their current account is held. On a potential interest rate rise, 42% of the manufacturing industry disagree that an increase would have a positive effect on their business, this is opposed to 22% who believe it will. Similarly, construction businesses suggest the same with 38% disagreeing that it will have a positive effect compared to 25% who agreed. Again, while many industries suggested that a rate rise would make them far more likely to save into a business savings account, overwhelmingly, most stress that it would make little difference to their current arrangements. Eighty three per cent of finance and accounting SMEs and 69% of retailers say it would make no difference at all. Savings Research

12 Contact For any questions or comments on this report please contact: Corporate Affairs aldermore.co.uk Savings Research

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