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Assessing your bank or choosing for the first time, what a disabled person should look for

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As a small business owner how satisfied are you with your bank? Is the service you are receiving adequate or are you totally unhappy? The Disability Discrimination Act (originally of 1995) should ensure that within reason you should receive access to your banking requirements. Given the ‘Credit Crunch’ banks are under pressure to cut costs to shore up their balance sheets. Borrowing from a bank may become more expensive and the service may become affected.

Here are some basic points to consider when evaluating a bank’s service:

A Limited Company must open a business account. Sole Traders may use their personal current account for business activities.

You should consider a bank which has a dedicated small business team and enquire whether there are facilities for your disability. This may be for example if there is a disability officer available to provide you with dedicated support or if there is wheelchair access at your local branch. Try to ascertain how many businesses your bank manager or bank advisor looks after and try to ascertain if you will be dealt with face to face at the bank or through a call centre. If you have straightforward requirements another option is to use internet banking if you are able to use access technology.

Does your bank manager know the requirements of your business? A good bank manager will spend time getting to understand your business. You should be able to make contact as frequently as you require and each contact should add value to your business. A good bank manager may be able to make valuable business introductions on your behalf.

What are the interest rates on business and business savings account? For borrowing facilities there are sources of funding other than banks. Sources such as family and friends, regeneration funds, equity funds from business angels, factoring, asset finance, invoice and trade finance, equipment leasing, stock finance and payroll finance all have pros and cons which merit investigation dependent upon individual business circumstances.

Check the fixed charges the bank levies on business accounts for transaction fees and overdraft fees. Check if there is a fee-free period for new customers. Does the bank offer other services such as credit cards, charge cards, free statements and do you need them?

The Forum of Private Business conducts a bank survey among 5,000 small firms every two years. The Report Private Business assesses banks across the following 18 factors:

whether knows business, knows industry, knows market, offers advice, range of services, availability of credit, competitiveness of interest rates, competitive charges, realistic collateral, tailors finance, deal with one person, access to loan officer, speed of decision, efficiency, reliability, friendly staff, convenient location and convenient hours.

The top 9 banks of the survey, with AIB ranked first and Barclays ranked ninth, were:

1. AIB
2. Yorkshire
3. Clydesdale
5. RBS
6. Bank of Scotland
7. NatWest
8. Lloyds TSB
9. Barclay

Correct for 2004

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