Banks are letting us down
Do the banks want my business? In theory, they jolly well ought to. Over almost two decades of employment I was a loyal customer of several institutions – I bought many of their products and generally behaved myself. As a freelancer over the past year or so, I’ve been steadily building up my business, which – touch wood – is now reasonably successful. I earn a decent sum and will probably need more financial services over the next few years – I’m the ideal client, in other words.
Strangely, none of the banks seem to see it like that. I’m in the process of going from sole trader to limited company status and therefore need a business account for the very first time. But opening one is proving more time-consuming and bureaucratic than I ever imagined.
Having changed current account provider a couple of times over the years in very straightforward fashion, I naively assumed that opening a business account would take five minutes. The only question, I thought, would be who offered the best deal.
Yet visits to my local branch of all four major high street banks have so far proved fruitless. None of the staff in any of the branches seemed to have any clue about the terms and conditions of their business products (one did at least dig me out a leaflet). In each case, they suggested I make an appointment to discuss my needs with an adviser based at a branch somewhere else – not that they were actually able to do that for me.
Fortunately, as a journalist who often writes about finance and small business, I’ve got access to various research materials so I have been able to check out the different deals for myself. Not that doing so makes happy reading – in every case, the banks’ business account products are inferior to their current account offering.
They come with onerous charges, pay little interest and offer all sorts of bells and whistles that are of no use to me but out of which I don’t seem to be able to opt in order to get a better deal.
I’ve now spoken to the right people at two of the four banks whose branches I visited. Both have told me that getting an account up and running with them will take the best part of a month.
This is, in short, hopeless. On a personal level, I’d love to hear Freelancing Matters’ readers’ recommendations. More generally, I’d suggest the banks might want to think about basic service levels when it comes to small businesses.