How often do you change bank accounts?
Arjan: I don’t want to continuously shop around. It’s not as easy to change accounts as banks make out. By changing you’re losing your relationship with your bank manager and your history is out of the window. You might benefit from lower charges, but if there’s a cashflow problem then your new bank manager may not be as understanding as the old one.
Karl: In the 41 years since we opened the store, we’ve only had three different bank accounts. We started with Barclays, then changed to NatWest, and for the last 12 years we’ve been with Lloyds. I always look around at what other banks are offering every year to make sure that we’re getting a reasonable offer.
Chris: We’ve probably only changed twice in 30 years. It’s important to build a good relationship with your bank manager. We’ve had the same person for nine years, which is very unusual. He understands our business and that’s why we’ve stayed with the bank.
Sylvia: We’ve been with Alliance & Leicester since we started. We have considered other deals, but it’s too much hassle.
What do you require from a business bank account?
Arjan: Bank charges are top of the list. Charges from the banks seem to be very high in relation to the size of convenience stores. We need to stand up to banks and let them reciprocate with more reasonable charges.
Karl: We receive a really good service from our bank. We could probably save money on charges if we went elsewhere, but the cheapest offer isn’t always the best.
Chris: Anyone can lend you money and give good rates, but what you really need is a manager who understands your business.
Sylvia: My first consideration is charges, but efficiency is also important. The convenience of getting to your bank is another factor as you don’t want to have to walk far carrying large amounts of cash.
How have your charges changed in the past few years?
Arjan: We had a deal with Halifax for free charges for cash banking prior to the credit crunch, but that’s now come to an end. We’re in the middle of renegotiating with Barclays. People with post offices are privileged as they can do their banking in-house.
Karl: Our charges have increased over the last year, but in the current climate I think everyone has probably experienced that. We’re still paying less with Lloyds now than we were with NatWest.
Chris: My charges haven’t changed a lot they’ve been static for about five years.
Sylvia: My bank only allows me to bank a certain amount of cash before they start charging, which is a bit of a niggle, but I don’t know that the charges have necessarily gone up.
Is cash flow helped or hindered by other services such as PayPoint and ATMs?
Arjan: I find that credit card polling, where the bank dials into your system can cause cash flow problems.
Karl: I don’t find PayPoint problematic. You have to bear in mind that you’re just looking after that money for PayPoint so I find it easier to keep it separate.
Chris: Cash flow is only hindered if you pull out of a service once it’s rolling the money comes in before you pay, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Sylvia: It doesn’t really hinder me, you just have to keep on top of when your direct debits are coming out.
Have you ever had a dispute with a bank or financial organisation?
Chris: Occasionally there may be charges that you question, but this can always be talked through with your relationship manager.
Arjan: I’ve never had a dispute with the bank.
Karl: I haven’t had any problems recently, but when we first started up the business we were temporarily overdrawn. It was a bank error and they eventually accepted they were at fault, but not without a lot of work on our part. After all the hassle it caused, we decided to change banks.
Sylvia: Once we had a cheque that didn’t go through properly. We weren’t charged and we thought that, at the bank’s discretion, they had chosen to wipe it, but they ended up charging us a month later instead.
What would improve the service you get from banks?
Arjan: Banks really need to change the way they operate. Your personal banker needs to come to the store on a regular basis and look at underlying issues so that they can make forecasts about the future of the business.
Karl: I’m really happy with the service I receive there isn’t really much they could do to improve it.
Chris: Banks need to be more open about their charging systems how much they are charging and why.
Sylvia: I would remove the automated telephone service so that you don’t have to press loads of buttons to get through to a call centre it’s a real pet hate of mine.