Flexible options for businesses as banking looks to future.
Earlier this month, two major UK banks launched initiatives that embrace fintech. With solutions such as Tide leading the digital charge, it stands to reason that long-established financial institutions should look to develop their own products aimed squarely at technology-savvy businesses.
Back in May, HSBC was the first major UK bank to launch an open banking app - Connected Money - that enabled HSBC customers to view all their UK current accounts, credit cards, mortgages and loans in one place. Barclays followed suit in September, adding multiple account viewing from within its core mobile banking app.
Now, Barclays has taken another dip into the digital domain in launching free mobile invoicing for SMEs, becoming the first high street bank to do so in the process.
Barclays’ new feature, which is incorporated in both its iOS and Android mobile banking apps, allows businesses to create and send invoices on the move, all from a smartphone. Other features include the ability to track and manage invoices, check when payments are due, and reconcile invoices.
Mobile invoicing has been provided by other independent providers for a while now, but for a major UK bank to take it on board is something of a big deal. Recognising that small businesses aren’t always based in the office, mobile invoicing - offered by Barclays for free - provides the kind of flexibility that SMEs want to set themselves apart. The CEO of Barclays Business Banking said in an associated release that the app meant small business owners didn’t have to be confined to sorting out invoicing in the evenings and on weekends, and the ultimate aim here is that SMEs should save time and speed up the payment cycle.
Natwest Shows Its Mettle
Natwest has also made its own play to entice SMEs in its launch of a stand-alone digital bank: Mettle.
Currently at pilot stage, Mettle is described by the bank as having been designed to “provide businesses with a new, forward looking way to manage their finances”, and it promises to offer SMEs a current account combined with invoicing, payment chasing and bookkeeping capabilities.
According to Natwest, business customers will be able to open up an account within minutes and take advantage of features such as forecasting business performance, all from within a single mobile app that comes with a debit card.
Interestingly, as this is still at pilot stage, any customers opening a Mettle account will potentially have a key say in its development going forward, with the bank stating that customers will “work closely” with the Mettle team to influence the product’s development.
Being run independently from the bank, Mettle sounds like an intriguing proposition for any SMEs that are prepared to sign up. The potential to take greater, instant control of financial decisions, keep on top of financial commitments and invoicing, and focus on the growth of the business itself is surely something that any small company would welcome.
Both Mettle and Barclays’ launch of mobile invoicing demonstrate how traditional banks are recognising the opportunities that fintech has brought to business users. There are issues to consider before signing up, not least that Mettle is not a bank, as such, but rather an e-money account, and any deposits will not be FSCS (Financial Services Compensation Scheme) protected. Account holdings are also limited to £50,000, with other limits such as cash withdrawals of £500 a day and £4,000 a month.
However, the very fact that major, traditional banks are dipping their toes into digital banking demonstrates an acknowledgement that there are SMEs out there that want the kind of flexible, forward-looking solutions that fintech independents have already been providing. In bringing these solutions to the table, traditional banks are showing that they are working to remain relevant in a digital world.
Interested in financial software solutions for your business? Check out our sister site www.tmb.software.