With the uncertainty in the banking sector, which one is best for you to scale your business?
You’re probably still with the first bank you chose after googling ‘Which bank should I use for my start-up?’. And they’ve probably done a decent job. But once things start picking up and you move away from just a handful of people to pay, how that bank actually works for you on a day-to-day basis - the operations - is going to really start to matter. Take it from the FinOps experts, no one wants to be manually approving transactions or individually generating invoices.
While you can find countless articles on interest rates and overdraft limits, we’re here to tell you the real operational considerations to keep in mind. You need to pick a bank that’s going to facilitate the growth of your business. We’ve spoken to the FinOps experts that have been making these decisions for years and put all that knowledge together in this blog.
We’ll delve into the 3 key operational considerations, the 3 types of banks available to you and 3 of our top business bank accounts. Get the full list of banks and survey results in our ultimate banking cheat sheet:
We asked our team - FinOps experts working across multiple start-ups each week - and they came up with the three most important considerations from an operational perspective.
And then we asked the FinOps Forum their views on the banks they currently use.
The FinOps Forum is a community of Finance and Operational people working in start-ups and fast-growing businesses. There are more than 500 people in the community in start-ups and scale-ups across the globe.
Here’s what they said:
You’re going to be dealing with your bank a lot so the user experience matters! No one wants a glitchy app when you’ve got to sort payroll or spending hours trying to set up the bank account in the first place. And then being put on hold to top it all off? No thanks 👎
Make sure that it meets your specific needs and is a dream to use, otherwise you risk wasting valuable time and resources on administrative tasks.
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a bank is whether or not it integrates with your accounting software. You don't want to be manually copying and pasting transaction lines all day, so look for a bank that has a smooth and easy-to-use integration. It will save you time and $$$.
Keep in mind that not all integrations are created equal - some banks, like Amex, may have particularly bad integrations that can cause headaches.
99% of the time you'll be using your bank to pay people. So look for a bank that has a user-friendly interface for making payments - can you make bulk payments? Is it easy to authorise them? Can your team do the same?
You’re a busy entrepreneur and don't want to be the only one who can log in to your business bank account. Look for a bank that makes it easy to set up multiple users and assign different levels of access and approvals. Some banks, like Wise and Revolut, also offer multiple cards for different users, which can be particularly useful if you have a team that needs to make purchases.
Is it best to play it safe with a bricks and mortar bank? Or should you go with a neo bank that is shaking up the industry with innovative ideas and tech-focused solutions?
You’ve pretty much got 3 choices:
High street banks have been around for a while and many consider them a ‘safe pair of hands’. Think Lloyds, Barclays, NatWest, HSBC.
Traditionally, these banks have been seen as the mainstay of the industry, offering a wide range of financial services to individuals and businesses alike. They have branches on practically every high street in the country and their brand names are well-known and trusted.
In the past, these banks were the only option for most people's banking needs. However, in recent years, many people have become disillusioned, feeling that they have become too bureaucratic, impersonal and focused on profits rather than customers. Plus they’re slow to take up innovative tech, leading to poor user experiences.
✅ too big to fail 🤔
✅ physical branches
❌ poor use of tech and UX
❌ often have to go to branch
From our survey of the FinOps Forum, it turns out that most had gone with traditional high street banks:
We asked them to rate the following from rubbish 🗑️ to brilliant 🌟:
The results were unsurprising:
The high street banks are not performing well.
And so the challenger bank was born. They’re relatively new, having only emerged in the past decade or so. You won’t find them on the high street, instead they’re seeking to transform the banking industry from the palm of your hand. Some of the key players include Monzo, Starling, Revolut and Wise.
Challenger banks saw an opportunity to provide a better, more customer-focused banking experience, using technology and innovative business models. Some also offer services all under the one roof that are traditionally associated with other financial institutions, such as currency exchange, insurance and investment management.
✅ tech focused with great UX
✅ innovative features
✅ novel perks
❌ no physical presence (if that’s your thing)
❌ less established reputation
Then there’s everything in between. Some start-ups go with other options that don’t quite fall under the above categories, such as:
Coutts - a private bank that has been around since the 18th century. It is well-known for catering to wealthy individuals and families (including the Royal Family), providing bespoke services such as wealth management, investment advice and specialist lending.
SVB UK (Silicon Valley Bank) - provides banking services and financial solutions tailored to the needs of start-ups, entrepreneurs and investors. Big on the tech scene. Recently bought by HSBC following the collapse of its US arm.
Banking Circle - a financial services company that specialises in providing fast, efficient and cost-effective payment processing and currency exchange services. Particularly popular among e-commerce and marketplace businesses.
Based on our research, and a little unsurprisingly, the high street banks gave high-levels of security but low-levels of operational support. The ‘challengers’ were just the opposite.
Below are some of the top business bank accounts you can get right now (in our opinion).
For the full list of banks and how they did, download our cheat sheet:
Revolut’s main selling point is all about foreign exchange - with accounts available in 28+ currencies, making international payments is a breeze. If you’re looking to expand globally, this could be the bank for you.
They also get a big plus for good design and accessibility.
What we love about it:
🚀 Strong integration with Xero, Slack and various other apps
🚀 Can have multiple team members/administrators and varied approval levels
🚀 Prepaid cards to help monitor employee spending and card balances
😒 Not suitable for businesses that receive a lot of cash (cannot deposit cash into account)
😒 Fees charged if you exceed limits of your specific pricing plan
😒 Not FSCS protected as not a registered bank in the UK
Wise accounts are quick to set up making it easy to transfer money abroad with an impressive 55+ currencies available. If you’re eyeing up international expansion they’re a great account for you.
What we love about it:
🚀 Seriously great for international payments - you get multiple local account details
🚀 Batch tool to send multiple payments and invoices
🚀 Team debit cards available without foreign transaction fees
😒 Wise-Xero integration doesn’t do international payments
😒 You cannot deposit cash to a Wise account
😒 Negative interest rates on large EUR balances
Starling is all about bringing a better user experience than your high street bank.
What we love about it:
🚀 Free account has most of the features
🚀 No fees on electronic payments, domestic transfers or ATM withdrawals
🚀 Very responsive lending facilities
😒 Authorisation limit issues - only directors have access
😒 Struggle with accepting foreign currency payments
😒 Have rejected companies for being ‘too big’
Great question. Yes you can.
And we’d highly advise it. If you’ve read our Banking Cheat Sheet you’ll see no bank does it all. So, spread those eggs across many baskets. The best setups we’ve seen have multiple accounts for specific reasons (security, ease of use, integrations) and that way you’ll be able to scale your business while keeping your cash safe.
Want to know more? Find some time with us here - we’d love to talk.