The best way we can empower small businesses is by being straightforward6 mins read
By Mark Stephens, CEO of Allica Bank
When I talk to small business owners about why they don’t spend more time managing their company finances, “complicated” and “time-consuming” are two words that often crop up.
And who can blame them?
The over-complication of financial products and excessive use of jargon can make business finance a tricky road to tread for business owners. Lengthy product websites and confusing requirement checklists mean they rarely have time to research their options, let alone google what most of it means. It’s created an environment that alienates small businesses, rather than empowers them.
But business banking doesn’t have to be this complex. Often, the best things are made simple. This is why we selected being straightforward as one of Allica Bank’s three core company values (alongside integrity and collaboration). We believe that, to be able to effectively work together with a business owner to help them succeed, they need to be able to easily understand us and what it is we can offer them.
The use of over-complex terminology and jargon by finance providers has given many small businesses the impression that finance solutions are far more complicated than they really are.
I am worried about the effect this is having on the prospects of Britain’s small businesses. It’s made many business owners reluctant to reach out to the professional community to explore the different types of support available to them. Surely this can’t be healthy?
After all, small business owners are experts at what they do – they’re not experts at the likes of asset finance, banking, accounting or payroll. They need to outsource for guidance and support in these areas if they are going to manage them effectively and improve their efficiency. However, if they don’t know that these tools exist, they’ll never be able to make the most of them.
It’s creating a serious drag on productivity and growth across the entire small business ecosystem in the UK. And, if you ask me, it’s up to banks like Allica to do something about it.
Simple isn’t easy
Allica needs to get this right from top to bottom if we’re going to make business finance more accessible to small businesses. However, it can be difficult not to fall into the trap of over-complicating things or using the occasional piece of jargon. People of all industries get immersed in their organisation’s way of speaking and can easily start to speak to external people in the same way.
To avoid this, there are some simple principles we need to follow across all parts of our business – whether it’s over the phone with a business owner, on our Introducer Dashboard, in our marketing material, or when talking among colleagues.
Firstly, we need to read everything through the eyes of our customers: is what we are saying concise, clear and easily digestible to someone that isn’t part of Allica Bank? We have to remember that our customers have a business to run. They’re time-poor and aren’t interested in deciphering a complex paragraph littered with financial jargon. They just want an answer to their question and a straightforward explanation.
The products we make available need to follow suit. Customers should be able to see clearly what we’re able to offer them simply by spending a few minutes on the website. Or, if they prefer, be able to get a straightforward run-down of what we can do from someone over the phone. Not be confronted by a long list of complex product names, each with their own manual of quirks and specifications.
Lastly, the experience of working with us should be as straightforward and simple as possible. This means being proactive with our communication, alongside enabling customers to self-serve and manage their own accounts. We’re currently developing an application tracker, for example. This will allow brokers and customers to follow the progress of their application in real-time, putting the power back into their hands and increasing the transparency of the entire process.
Making business finance accessible
The complexity of the commercial finance sector has for too long dampened the potential of small businesses. Stuffy, complicated products have created a mist of confusion that has put off business owners from leveraging the tools available to them, rather than utilising them. It's time that changed.
At Allica Bank, we believe in doing things differently. We want to empower small businesses to succeed by making our products accessible and easy for everyone to understand. We want to give business owners the confidence to take the initiative and look for support if they need it. This means being clear about what we can do; concise in how we say it; and, above all, straightforward.
I hope that’s clear!