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Checking Account Trends for Small Businesses

A national telephone survey of 600 small business* owners and executives completed in October 2006 by Synergistics Research Corporation turned up “inside info” about what they seek from providers of their business checking accounts:

The three key fundamentals that small business owners seek in a financial institution are:

1) Convenient Branch Locations
2) Good Customer Service
3) Fair Pricing

three quartersNearly three-quarters cited location as a dominant factor in choosing their current primary account provider.

Small businesses want overdraft protection, and this should be an ongoing feature of checking account offerings. There is negligible use of sweeps; providers should consider expanding this service.

one in tenThe potential for reward programs tied to business checking accounts is limited. Fewer than one in 10 respondents participate in such a program.

Demand for debit cards has increased significantly. one thirdOne-third of small businesses surveyed use them, compared with one-fifth in 2004. Among non-users, one in four express interest, compared with one in 10 in 2004.

1 in 4Share-shifting may become more prevalent. Among those companies that opened new checking accounts, one in four replaced an account at another institution,mostly for convenience, consolidation or service.

Businesses with more than $100,000 in sales expressed interest in packages. Manufacturers and wholesalers tend to utilize more checks.

The potential for interest-bearing business checking is very appealing to small businesses. If available, most would be willing to meet requirements, just as they are for no-fee checking.

Packages (including overdraft protection, credit and saving products) should be part of the checking product mix, especially for growing, high-volume businesses.

two-thirdsAlmost two-thirds of small businesses surveyed have online access and consider online bill pay a very important capability.

one-thirdAlmost one-third currently pay bills online.

Institutions should focus on the basics when marketing checking accounts to small businesses, by providing the most appropriate services. Vital to this strategy are bundled packages and online account access.

*Annual sales from $50,000 to $5 million.