Credit cards were introduced in the 1950s. Internet banking was offered in the 1990s, along with contactless payment technology. And in the past three years — thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic — fintech, or financial technology, has reached mass adoption.
Travelling and queuing to make transactions at a high street bank will soon be a thing of the past. Now customers can enjoy instant transactions, a better user experience, efficiency and speed — a frictionless experience at your fingertips.
But what is fintech, and why is it better than your high street bank? Read on as we delve into reasons why your business should have an alternative in place of a high street bank.
This article at a glance
Having enjoyed a financial services monopoly for a long time, high street banks can afford to rely on expensive, outdated technology, and cherry-pick their customers. This leaves 8 out of 10 SMEs unbankable every year.
Fintech is the solution. AI-powered technology makes onboarding a seamless and speedy process. Cross-border transfers are frictionless and affordable.
A high street bank refers to a large retail bank that offers banking services to consumers and businesses. They usually have hundreds of branches across any given country.
Let’s start with the benefits. High street banks have tough security measures in place to reduce the prevalence of fraud — and you can’t put a price on safety.
However, high street banks have monopolised the market and enjoyed access to massive amounts of capital — there is little incentive for them to change their outdated processes because the customers will keep on coming. This allows them to render thousands of SMEs unbankable every year.
Let’s explore the reasons why high street banks are making themselves obsolete in the face of widespread socioeconomic change.
Most high street banks require your physical presence to open a new bank account, or to apply for financial services.
Some high street banks still lack the technology to verify your identity online — a huge inconvenience, particularly during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when lockdowns saw high street banks having to close indefinitely. Moreover, high street banks are still heavily dependent on physical documentation, which is susceptible to human error.
These banking systems are largely outdated — relying on just one core system to support functions from their primary operations to the backend system. This means that setting up an account, making deposits, carrying out transactions and applying for a bank loan all rely on the same antiquated system.
High street banks often charge hidden fees. Over time, these seemingly insignificant fees build up — enough to overwhelm an SME.
Firstly, there are monthly fees, usually between £5-£10 per month. However, these are easy to bear when compared to fees slapped on international transfers.
High street banks charge a transfer fee for outgoing transactions, meaning that every transaction made through your business account will be charged a fee varying from 0.06% to 2%. While that number can seem like peanuts, if you’re regularly making high-value international payments, it’s enough to make or break a business.
Raj sells textiles he buys from a manufacturer based in China. He sends his supplier high-value cross-border payments every month. If he sends £10,000 every month through a high street bank like Barclays, he will get charged a fee of £216. That’s not all — SWIFT takes a commission from both the sender and the recipient. Therefore, before your supplier even receives the money, their high street bank would have already charged them £10, leaving them with £9,770.
High street banks have strict collateral requirements and for this reason, 8 out of 10 SMEs get rejected by high street banks because they’re considered ‘high risk'.
The result: SME business owners struggle to find investors — a hammer blow to free, fair global trade.
The problem is this: high street banks can afford to do this. Until now, they have enjoyed a monopolistic stranglehold over the economy and so they can cherry-pick their customers.
Fintech emerged in the late 1990s in the aftermath of the dot-com bubble burst, but only gained traction in the 21st century.
The term describes new technology used to streamline, augment, disrupt or digitise traditional financial services for consumers or businesses — from blockchain to online payment providers.
Until recently, fintech companies weren’t seen as serious alternatives to high street banks. Largely, this is because companies like Western Union and PayPal have been plagued with allegations of fraud.
But there is an alternative. You can have your cake and eat it. Let’s explore the reasons why fintech can be a serious alternative to high street banks for global SMEs.
Fintech is powered by artificial intelligence, machine learning, and automation for maximised efficiency. This means fewer mistakes made, and larger amounts of data processed, allowing fintech companies to better understand their demographic and personalise and optimise their platform for a better user experience.
New technology speeds up usually long and arduous processes like applications for business accounts. With Silverbird, customers can apply anywhere, anytime. Indeed, you can be fully onboarded with a fully activated Silverbird account in 5 days or less, whereas traditional high street banks can take up to 4 weeks.
Customers can get in touch with Customer Support teams seamlessly through mobile phone apps. Automation speeds up international transfers without the need for any human intervention. When help is needed, Silverbird offers specialised international trade support, as well as real humans in Customer Support.
Unlike high street banks, fintech’s collateral requirements are lenient and flexible. Fintech companies don’t have to adhere to static business models and can introduce services that high street banks wouldn’t necessarily be open to introducing.
Previously unbankable SMEs can be onboarded with Silverbird. You only need to be 18 or over, with an active company holding a registration number in your respective jurisdiction, and you must be the owner, director, shareholder or legal representative of the company in question. That’s it. End of story.
Fintech companies are a far cheaper alternative than high street banks. Let’s say you were sending money abroad to pay your suppliers. Fintech alternatives, unlike high street banks, are transparent about the transfer fees involved:
Provider Exchange Rate Transfer Fee PayPal Exorbitant Rate £10 Silverbird Competitive Rate £9.95 Western Union Extortionate Rate Up to £35 Wise Mid-Market Rate £11.06 PayPal can be a handy tool for sending money internationally, but they come with huge exchange rate costs and Western Union is known for their extortionate exchange rate, with sky-high handling fees.
As we’ve already discussed, the only tangible benefit of high street banks is their safeguarding process. Silverbird gives you the best of both worlds — its safeguarding process protects 100% of your money, holding your money in reputable UK and EU banks.
If you’re making high-value payments, you’ll want a high-tech security solution. As we’ve discussed, fintech alternatives like PayPal and Western Union are vulnerable to fraud.
The only real alternative for international merchants is Silverbird.
Regardless of the credibility of high street banks, technology has gradually rendered them passé. Bid goodbye to ancient procedures, late payments from customers, sneaky hidden charges and physical paperwork with an alternative solution — fintech.
At Silverbird, financial authorities supervise us in every country we operate in. We support over 100 jurisdictions, empowering businesses everywhere to expand into new markets beyond their borders. Don’t just take our word for it — sign up now and try out services yourself today.
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