Challenger banks are so called because they have shaken up the banking industry. But do their apps offer all the function needed? Do high street banking apps perform the same?
From Lloyds bank to Barclays, to HSBC and NatWest, the high street banks are established and instantly recognisable. For many businesses, they are the obvious choice when it comes to managing their accounts and finances.
But challenger banks such as Revolut and Starling Bank have revolutionised the banking landscape. What do their apps offer?
Established in 2015, this is the fastest-growing digital bank that arguably offers the widest range of features. It enjoys an enviable reputation certainly within personal banking but what about business banking?
The features are many and varied including multiple currencies, prepaid debit cards, payroll and expense management. You can also enjoy a range of perks at Google Ads and Deliveroo to name just two but, these features and some others, such as being ‘eligible’ for overdraft facilities, are only open to paid business users.
Open to all shapes and sizes of business, Revolut’s business banking app is tipped as being one of the most popular. However, be warned some of the extras such as setting team members permissions can only be found in the pay-monthly options.
Like Revolut, Monzo offers a free and paid for business banking options. The Lite business account is free with the Pro version costing £5 per month.
It has all the features you would expect including biometric login on the app and the ability to separate your money into ‘pots’. You’ll need the paid version for Xero, QuickBooks and FreeAgent however. But one of the best features of the paid version is separating money into a Tax Pot.
Fully protected, your money is safe with this bank and the app gets a thumbs up too. Easy to use with everything easily accessible, the simplicity of the app belies just how detailed it is.
Another challenger bank contender is Starling Bank. Its founder, Anne Boden, said that small business owners and entrepreneurs had been marginalised too long within the banking world. Opening a high street business account could take weeks, with seemingly endless forms. Starling Bank removed all of that (almost!) with an easy-to-access business account for sole traders and limited companies.
In terms of its business banking app, it looks remarkably like the personal banking app – they use the same interface – and so if business owners personally bank with Starling, they have everything in one place.
Deceptively simple, making payments online takes a matter of seconds and the app also notifies you when payments are received. Links well with Xero, QuickBooks and other accounting platforms. It does everything you would expect from a business banking app.
The high street business banking apps
The challenger banks may be presenting exactly that – a challenge to how we have traditionally banked in the UK – but that doesn’t mean the high street banks haven’t come back fighting. For some businesses, what the traditional bank offers remain the better option.
Rating highly in terms of customer service, Santander offers a business banking product called 123 Business Current Account.
Like many other high street banks, it charges business customers for this product with an annual account fee of £150. This figure that seems hefty when compared to £60 annual fee for RBS and NatWest.
However, automated payments in and out are free, as are cash and cheque payments in and out.
The app has a clear and accessible interface, with a simple and secure login system. Once in, you can complete a range of banking tasks that you would normally complete on your account.
Having said that, not all users rate the app highly but, when these teething problems are sorted, the app functions just as users need it to.
Bank of Scotland
Offering six to 18 months free business banking, many businesses have opted to bank with high street staple the Bank of Scotland.
With an overall account fee of £78, this is certainly an affordable option for all sizes of business. The app has all the features you would expect including secure biometric login (or three-digit combination from pre-set memorable information). It also has balance checking, transferring between accounts, viewing and cancelling direct debits and standing orders as well as resetting passwords. You can also pay in cheques online, ideal for entering the payment system as soon as possible.
Another high street staple is Barclays. It’s 12-month free business bank account – £78 annually after this – is certainly attractive and its fees for deposits etc are on a par with the other high street banks.
Where it can get a bit cloudy is its app. It has all the features you would expect but unlike some of the Challenger Bank apps, they require permission for more than one user. They call this their Mobile Banking Waiver and whilst this may be a worth security feature, the process feels a little lumpy.
That said, once set up the Barclays app offers a veritable feast of business banking features including paying in cheques, international payments, contactless payments. Currency payments are available too, although at the moment this is Euros and US Dollars.
It also allows you to keep track of business spending in real-time, essentially when you are keeping a close, analytical eye on overheads. A worthy contender.
Other business bank accounts
There are many other business accounts available, all of which have accessible apps with features you’ll find useful and easy to use. The Challenger Banks are not having it all their way, but there are times when it feels more streamlined. They were shaped digitally whereas the other high street banks have operated in a different sphere.
Businesses want a more sophisticated means of controlling their finances, with tools that help them analyse daily spending and income, for example as well as handy reminders for when payments. Most banking apps offer this and more.