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The Co-operative Bank launches longest free banking introductory offer for SMEs as it steps up competition

19 July 2019

  • The Co-operative Bank nearly doubles its free introductory period from 18 months to 30 months for new SME banking customers – as official data indicates businesses are most likely to struggle in their second year
  • Existing Business Directplus customers currently in their introductory period will see it extended by 12 months, in line with the new offer
  • Donald Kerr, the newly appointed managing director of SME Banking at the Co-operative Bank, is available for interview on product and broader SME issues
  • Case studies of SME businesses available

The Co-operative Bank has announced it will be extending its free introductory period for SME customers by a year. New Business Directplus customers will benefit from 30 months of free everyday banking, subject to certain transaction limits and a minimum credit balance of £1,000, making it the best-in-market introductory deal for the nation’s small businesses. The Bank has also chosen to extend this offer to existing customers who are still in their introductory period.

Developing its small to medium sized enterprise (SME) banking business is a key priority for the Co-operative Bank; its revised introductory period is one of a series of steps to help its customers flourish. Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), found that of the approximately 380,000 businesses that are established every year, one in four (26%) are likely to struggle or fail in their first two years, indicating that support is required over a longer period*. The offer, which is also available to existing businesses which choose to switch, will be key to helping SMEs establish themselves.

Donald Kerr at The Co-operative Bank commented: “Our market leading introductory offer is another step in improving competition for UK SMEs and supporting them to be better and stronger businesses. Data shows that the second year of an SME’s life is its most difficult; extending free banking by a year will be an important helping-hand which eases pressure for entrepreneurs at a crunch point in their development and provides them with additional support.

“Our aim is to pioneer banking that makes a positive difference to small businesses and, as the only UK high street bank with a customer-led Ethical Policy, we’re ambitious to support SMEs so they can develop not only their bottom lines but also build a new business that is clear on its values.”

In 2018, The Co-operative Bank managed the needs of over 84,000 SMEs, including 750 co-operatives, 5,000 charities and 218 credit unions making it the 7th biggest provider of business current accounts. The Bank, which was recently successful in its application to Banking Competition Remedies Ltd (BCR), aims to double its market share over the next five years, with a particular focus on supporting the many ethically minded small businesses that are looking for a bank that shares their point of view such as, the one in five SMEs (22%) established with the express intention of having a broader social purpose. **

The Co-operative Bank has a unique partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the UK’s largest membership body and voice of SMEs. In addition, in February 2016, the Co-operative Bank and Co-operatives UK partnered to form ‘The Hive’, the first co-operative development programme of its kind in the UK, which provides new business support for people wanting to start or grow co-operative or community enterprises, using a mix of online resources, training and advice.

The Bank’s core three business current accounts are rated five stars by Moneyfacts.

-- ENDS --

Notes to Editors

The Co-operative Bank’s Business Directplus product includes two tariffs – an introductory tariff for new to Bank customers, and a ‘standard’ tariff that customers are converted to at the end of the introductory period.

In the introductory period, customers are offered free everyday banking, subject to certain transaction limits and a minimum credit balance of £1,000. After the introductory period, customers are converted to the standard Business Directplus tariff. The Business Directplus tariffs are outlined below.

Transaction typeIntroductory tariff
First 30 months - new to Bank customers only
Standard tariff
Credit balance is above £1000 at all times Credit balance falls below £1000 at any time in the month Credit balance is above £1000 at all times Credit balance falls below £1000 at any time in the month
Monthly service charge Free £5 £5 £5
Automated credits Free
Cash paid in £2000 free per month and 75p per £100 thereafter
Cheques paid in 100 free per month and 25p each thereafter
Cash and cheques paid in at Post Office © 80p per credit (In addition to the limits above)
Automated debits Free 70p 25p 70p
Cheques Issued 30 free cheques per
month, then 30p for
each subsequent cheque
70p 30p 70p
Debit card purchases Free 70p 17p 70p
Cash withdrawals Free
ATM withdrawals Free (at a non-charging ATM within the UK)
Cash exchanged £1.60 per £100

*Office for National Statistics, Business Demography, November 2018

**Research of 1,007 UK SME decision makers carried out between 16th-30th November

Media enquiries:

Lewis Wilks, Lansons: +44 (0) 207 566 9702/ 07903 260 560

Nicki Parry, The Co-operative Bank: +44 (0)161 201 1590/ 07734 002 983


About The Co-operative Bank
The Co-operative Bank plc provides a full range of banking products and services to around four million retail and SME (Small and Medium Sized Enterprises) customers and is committed to values and ethics in line with the principles of the co-operative movement.

The Co-operative Bank is the only high street bank with a customer-led ethical policy which gives customers a say in how their money is used. Launched in 1992, the Policy has been updated on five occasions, with new commitments added in January 2015 to cover how the Bank operates its business, products and services, workplace and culture, relationships with suppliers and other stakeholders and campaigning.

Their award-winning Business Directplus Current Account was rated Five Stars by Moneyfacts in 2018 and offers 18 months of free banking to eligible customers including many charities. 

The Bank already offers a free business banking account for registered charities, co-operatives and credit unions – its Community Directplus Account – providing them with an ethical way to bank for free. Community Directplus account holders have the opportunity to apply for funding through its unique Customer Donation Fund, which allocates at least £5,000 a year to deserving organisations. Community Directplus customers can apply for up to £1,000 of project funding from our Customer Donation Fund, with the winners chosen by a panel of colleagues from across the Bank. In 2017, the Bank donated more than £69,000 to 78 community organisations through the fund and in 2018 gave over £40,900 to 44 organisations to support their community projects.

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