One of the key partnerships for a successful business is the one with their bank.

In fact, a great relationship can be a powerful benefit for a go-ahead company where poor service can prove to be a real dead weight.

In this post, we’ll look at ways you can leverage your banking services to get the very best for your business.

The first tip is to choose the right sort of bank from the very start.

This may seem odd, after all banks are all the same, aren’t they?

Not so. In fact, banks are often very specialised and serve different markets.

The main high street banks such as HSBC, Barclays, Lloyds and Nat West are generalists. They are so big that they have a section that will deal with any form of banking service.

Whilst this is often great for large businesses, smaller companies can often find themselves feeling like they have fallen through the cracks.

The big banks do offer a wide spread of services but they can often be too big and their charges can be expensive for firms that have a low volume of transactions.

There is a second tier of banks that may prove useful for smaller companies.

Banks such as RBS (Royal Bank of Scotland), Santander and the Cooperative provide a wide spread of services and in many cases, will make a special effort to attract business customers with deals on charges and access.

There are a large number of so-called challenger banks that have entered the market that may not always be suitable for business customers or who may refuse to supply services altogether.

First Direct (a division of HSBC) is a good example of a bank that targets customers with good credit ratings and that refuses business bank accounts.

Some of the challenger banks are making an effort to attract companies and Metro bank is a good example of a bank trying to do things differently.

Once you have chosen your bank the key is to build a relationship. This is where a smaller bank can come in handy.
Larger banks tend to expect small and medium business customers to be dealt with through a central department but a smaller bank will have dedicated business managers in branch to help.

Building a good relationship with them, keeping them informed and making periodic appointments to update them will pay dividends in the long run. People tend to appreciate being kept appraised of developments and not just called when the customer needs something!

The next tip is to find out what services the bank offers and understand them. There may be a particular business problem that the bank has the perfect solution for. Talking over issues with your manager will help and may provide you with just the answer you need. After all banks aren’t there simply to provide a current account!

One of the biggest changes in recent years has been the availability of online services and connectivity.

Businesses can save time and money by using these to their fullest. In fact there are often options with some accounting software to bring in bank transactions automatically saving time and effort keying in individual entries. Investigate what things your bank offers in terms of connectivity that may help you.

Banks will also often offer free versions of software to their business customers. We’ve seen accounting software, expenses management and CRM systems being offered completely free of charge. Check out what deals your bank has.

Relationship managers have identified the power of networking to build their customer base but you can use this to your advantage. Find out if your branch runs any networking sessions (or if not then suggest it) and go along. You’ll probably find that networking in this way with other local businesses will offer a multitude of new opportunities.

Many years ago banks used to be the hub of the local community but sadly they lost their way in the 80s and 90s, becoming soulless institutions that offered little in the way of added value.

The great news for businesses is that they have recognised the error of their ways and have started to become useful additions to the business owners’ toolbox.

Check out what is available from your bank and if they aren’t providing what you need then look around – there’s lots more out there!

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