Supercharge Your Business Bank Account
So, benefits are changing, and a one-size-fits-all package of perks is no longer enough. The good news is that the best employee benefits packages are now a differentiator, helping HR recruit the talent your company needs, and managers to increase productivity. A good benefits package should help foster loyalty and a sense of belonging.
Business banking has stayed much the same over the last thirty years, even though the way we do business has transformed beyond recognition.
But that’s about to change. We’re heading into a world where your bank account won’t just be a place to hold money: it will be a proactive way for you to make it work harder for you. With more opportunities, more access and more control, these developments could fundamentally reshape the way your business uses money – from how you spend to where you make purchases.
You may not have noticed them yet, but these changes have already begun. Fintech startups are having big impacts on what you should now expect from the services offered by traditional institutions, and they’re helping businesses like yours supercharge their business bank account. In this guide, we’ll take a closer look at just how the banking industry is changing and what it means for you, as well as the companies that could help you take your business account to the next level.
Traditional business banking: what’s holding you back?
Your business, like everyone else’s, needs a bank account. Which means your business, like everyone else’s, probably banks with one of the big nine.
The nine major banks – HSBC, Barclays, RBS, Santander, Bank of Ireland, Allied Irish Bank, Danske, Lloyds and Nationwide – hold what is essentially a monopoly on the market. And as much as they may claim to offer something different from each other, their offerings are fundamentally the same.
All your money is in one single pot, which can be accessed only with a company debit or credit card, and you can use it to:
- Buy what you need, pay those you owe and receive client payments
- Separate business expenses from personal ones
- File taxes and identify deductible expenses
You might also gain access to a few benefits here and there, such as a personal advisor and tailored introductory offers. But there are a number of problems with business banking today – and none of the major banks have found a way to solve them. For example:
- Credit and debit cards are risky. Business credit and debit cards are a more functional alternative to petty cash, since you can use them for bigger purchases and online. But they also come with risks: anyone with a credit or debit card linked to your business account has unrestricted access to company funds. So in practice, there’s very little you can do to guard against misuse and fraudulent activity.
- The online dashboard is slow to update. The risks of debit and credit cards are made more pronounced by a lack of real-time oversight. You may have an online account where you can review transactions, but these take time to show up on your statement. So even if your cards are being misused, it might take a long time for you to find out – if you ever do.
- There’s no easy way to identify expenses. Business expenses can be deducted from your profits at the end of the tax year, which is why reconciliation is so important. But the process of matching employee claims with items in your latest statement can be an arduous one. You often need to identify which transaction belongs to which cardholder, but with very little information to go on.
- You get data, but not insights. You might get your transaction data in the form of monthly bank statements, but turning it into useful insights is another story. If you want to see who is spending what and where – and use it to inform your company’s spending habits going forward – you’ll need to sieve through all the data manually.
- You’re often stung by transfer fees. Many banks take a cut of transfers you make – if you send more than X amount, for example, or if you transfer funds overseas. In the latter case, you might also need to wait a certain length of time for your funds to clear before they actually go through. There may also be hefty fees if members of your team use their credit or debit cards abroad.
For a long time, companies have had no choice but to accept business banking’s limitations as a given. But over the last few years, there’s been major new developments in the banking landscape that have created more choice than ever.
In all this time, banks have kept the same operating model: holding money safe, lending it and moving it. That’s it. The only differentiator is price, and that’s why both individuals and businesses find banking sticky: why would you change providers just for a few pounds?Jason Bates, Co-Founder of 11:FS
What’s changing in the world of business banking?
There are three key trends we’re seeing in the business banking landscape:
1. Banks are building experiences, not just products
For a long time, banks have been churning out one-size-fits-all products. But they’re increasingly expected to create personal experiences that will help you drive your business forward.
That’s why, rather than applying a mud-against-a-wall approach, banks are tailoring products to your own unique needs – products that can be customised to fit you, and adapted as you grow. They’re also getting better at identifying what exactly those needs are, through customer journeys that strike the balance between innovative technology and human interaction. And artificial intelligence is likely to play a key part in this.
With time, EarnUp CEO Matthew Cooper tells us, AI will provide opportunities for banks to deliver fully personalised banking. It could be used to “find the best payment schedules, offer consumers new products, improve existing products, increase the operational efficiency of business processes and pursue new discoveries that offer innovative business opportunities.”
67% of customers are willing to give more personal data if it means more tailored service or advice.
2017 Accenture Financial Services Global Distribution & Marketing Consumer Study: Banking Report
2. Banks are starting to share data with third-party disruptors
Big banks have had full access your spending, lending and borrowing data for years – but they’ve kept it all to themselves.
Why is that a problem? Well, as we mentioned earlier, these banks have a monopoly on the market, which means they’re also the ones who define the industry’s agenda year after year. And if they decide not to use that data for anything meaningful – to fix some of the problems we raised in Chapter 1, for example – there’s not been much anyone else can do about it.
That’s why the Competition and Markets Authority introduced the Open Banking directive in 2018. Put simply, Open Banking forces your business bank to share your personal data with third-party institutions, as long as you’ve given them permission to do so. This means forward-thinking fintech startups can finally leverage a deeper pool of data to create innovative new products that will supercharge your business bank account.
The new directive is already putting pressure on banks to improve on and expand their own offering. And in the longer term, it will no doubt give rise to innovative products with entirely uses we couldn’t see coming if we tried. Who, for example, saw Uber coming when Google Maps gave open access to its maps data?
What is Open Banking?
Under Open Banking, the UK’s big nine banks are now obligated to share your data in a secure, standardised form with other financial institutions, and vice versa. But – and this is important to remember – they will only ever do it if they have your explicit permission.
To be clear, Open Banking doesn’t mean third parties will be able to dip into your business bank account at will. It does, however, mean you can allow them access to relevant data on what you’ve been spending, lending and borrowing. They can then use this to create new products, improve their services and, ultimately, help you take control of your finances.
3. Banks are embracing a fintech ecosystem
It’s become clear that seamless financial experiences are the future, and big banks are finally realising they need help to make them happen.
As it stands, traditional institutions are too big and too set in their ways to adapt to their customers’ needs quickly enough. So their best bet is to embrace the ecosystem that’s emerging around them, and to establish themselves as the beating heart of it all. And to help them do that, they need to collaborate with, partner with or acquire fintech startups.
In practice, this could mean any number of things. But in the early stages, you can expect to see business banking integrate software that enhances your cash flow, manages your expense reconciliation and fast-tracks your accounting. All the while, this new generation of innovators will likely spur a higher standard for UX and UI experiences from the banks they work with.
Expect to see this trend toward ecosystems become more pronounced as time goes by. Eventually, banks are bound to look past fintech and partner with healthcare, insurance, and retail industries. Just look at Chinese giant WeChat, which started out as a mobile messaging platform and is now a leading FS provider, a scheduling assistant for doctors’ appointments and even a portal for paying off traffic fines.
What does this new era of business banking mean for me?
There are so many changes to the banking industry taking place all at once, and there’s no way of saying exactly what they could mean for you in the long term.
But in the short term, it’s clear that they could supercharge your business bank account in three main ways…
Your banking can now be tailored to you
In the past, banks have relied on one-size-fits-all products. But there are now plenty of tools that enable you to make your bank account fit your business.
Take multi-user accounts, for example: they’ve replaced the need for debit and credit cards. A multi-user account enables you to give your team access to a pot of cash, but not to the central business account. Instead, they can then access their own personal account using a designated prepaid card. In short, you can still give your team a way to buy what they need, but do so without sacrificing any control.
You can even add additional limits to define how much of their account balance they can use, and rules to define whereabouts they can do it. As the account-holder, meanwhile, you have complete control of every account from one console, where you can review each account, monitor expenditure and make fund transfers.
You can now do more with your data
You’re living in a golden age of data-capture: it’s just a matter of finding what you need when you need it. But technology is making that simple, too.
You’ll gain access to different data sets depending on the applications or software you’re using. But if you’re using Soldo, for example, you’re able to review transactions in real time, and filter them by a wide variety of criteria – cardholder, transaction type, cost and more. And you can create detailed spending reports in a couple of clicks, in any number of formats.
As you build up a larger picture of financial data in your business, you’ll be able to work with your accounting team to pick up any anomalies in the data and nip anything unusual in the bud before it becomes a lasting problem. You’ll also be able to inform your company’s strategies going forward, with informed insights based in hard evidence.
You can finally say goodbye to paperwork
As your software ecosystem grows, so will your ability to create an automated financial experience. Soldo, for example, seamlessly integrates with Xero’s automatic bank feed and accounting APIs, enabling you to automate the entire expense reconciliation and accounting processes.
This begins at the point of payment: for employees making payments using prepaid cards, Soldo’s mobile app automatically submits an expense claim on their behalf. They can snap a photo of a receipt as proof of purchase if necessary, but their normal admin duties – filling in a spreadsheet with expense data, stapling receipts and so on – are managed for them.
This provides your finance team all the information they need to reconcile the expense. They can important transaction data and expense information into Xero with a click, reducing the risk of errors and helping them manage cash flow in real time.
How can I supercharge my business bank account?
There are lots of different areas of business banking that would benefit from an update – and lots of different companies helping you fix them.
Here are a few we think are leading the charge:
Soldo is a multi-user expense account. It helps you control business spending and, thanks to its integration with the most popular accounting software, makes it easy to manage and reconcile all company expenses.
You can give Soldo cards to some employees or all of them, to entire teams or individual contractors. It’s for you to decide who can access company money and the rules they need to follow to spend it. With intuitive tools like the mobile app and web console, you’ll be able to track spending in real time, send free and instant transfer funds to all cardholders, establish budgets and rules and much more.
How to get started with Soldo
1. Sign up
It’ll only take a few minutes, and we’ll let you know if you’ve been approved within 24 hours.
2. Log in
Once you’ve been approved, we’ll email you everything you need to log in to Soldo.
3. Get started
Create different expense accounts and top them up with as much money as you decide.
4. Add integrations
Link your payment control console with accounting software, including Xero.
Xero is a cloud-based accounting software platform, designed for small and medium-sized businesses. All your financial data is held in the cloud on a single unified ledger, enabling users to work from the same set of books no matter where they are.
Xero supports automatic bank account feeds, invoicing, accounts payable, expense claims, purchase orders, management reporting – and a lot more besides. It also offers a free API that enables customers and third-parties to integrate their technology.
Cash flow management: Fluidly
Fluidly is an intelligent cashflow engine. It plugs into an SME’s bank account to help you spot financial opportunities, automate cash flow forecasting and help businesses get paid faster.
Whether it’s hiring a new team member, investing in new equipment or simply paying a bill, Fluidly gives a clearer picture of your cash position so you always know where you stand. Fluidly combines artificial intelligence with financial modelling to produce an up-to-date forecast, and speeds up cash collections to get you paid faster and more predictably. You can even send automated emails, schedule calls and keep a complete record of your CRM, all in one place.
Money management: Bud
With Bud, you can manage all of their finances in a single place – making it simpler to file accounts and monitor expenditure.
With Bud’s smart infrastructure, you have easy access to our world’s key financial systems and the customers who use them. They have extensive connections with fintech companies and financial service providers, allowing banks to integrate products and services into existing apps or launch new products. For fintech companies and service providers, Bud provides single-point access to millions of customers through our network of banks.
Fintech innovation in business will blur the lines between banks, accounting platforms, bookkeeping and management forecasting, with new data and new services feeding into the decisions we make as business owners every day.Jason Bates, Co-Founder of 11:FS