Small firms not thrilled with big banks - J.D. Power

By Catherine Clifford, staff reporter

NEW YORK ( -- Small business owners are less than pleased with their relationships with their banks, especially big banks, according to a study from consumer satisfaction research firm, J.D. Power and Associates.

Main Street businesses' overall satisfaction with and loyalty to their banks is declining, according to the U.S. Small Business Banking Satisfaction Study released Thursday. Satisfaction is now at 711 on a 1,000-point scale, down from 718 in 2009. What's more, small businesses are the least satisfied of the financial services customers J.D. Power surveyed.

Small business owners are more optimistic these days, but banks don't seem to be keeping up with their expectations, Michael Beird, director of banking services at J.D. Power, said in a statement.

Small business owners value having an account manager who understands their business well, communicates often, and is easily accessible at both the bank itself and online.

They also want to know in advance about possible fees. "While customers don't expect to receive services for free, they become aggravated when blindsided by unexpected charges or by fees that aren't appropriate to their situation," said Beird.

Perhaps that's why small busineses now are more willing to jump ship: 19% of small business customers said they "definitely will" go back to their bank, down from 34% in 2008.

While larger firms can gain access to capital through multiple channels, including selling bonds, small businesses are very dependent on their bank as a source of capital.

"Banks are a critical support mechanism for small businesses, so these customers may be experiencing some frustration with the lack of support," he said.

The banks that fared worst in J.D. Power's rankings are the nation's three biggest: Chase, of financial services giant JP Morgan Chase (JPM, Fortune 500); Bank of America (BAC, Fortune 500); and Citibank of financial services behemoth Citigroup (C, Fortune 500).

Meanwhile, smaller regional banks swept the top spots: Atlanta-based SunTrust Bank (STI, Fortune 500) tops the list; followed by Huntington National Bank, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio; Cleveland-based KeyCorp (KEY, Fortune 500); BB&T (BBT, Fortune 500) of Winston-Salem, N.C.; and Regions Bank in Birmingham, Ala.

J.D. Power polled more than 6,600 financial decision-makers at small businesses with revenue between $100,000 to $10 million between July and August 2010.  To top of page

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