The UK’s small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) are most concerned about the looming economic impact of Brexit (30 per cent) and potential for their operating costs to increase (19 per cent), according to research from The Co-operative Bank.

The research, which asked SMEs to consider their biggest concerns across a range of business issues also found that rising costs are a key worry, with business owners considering the potential for both their own operating costs to rise but also for their supplier costs to increase (14 per cent).

As UK SMEs count their costs, 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.

Donald Kerr, managing director of SME banking at The Co-operative Bank commented: “It’s understandable that SMEs are concerned about the potential for rising costs, particularly when there remains so much uncertainty about the impact that an exit from European Union will have.  Small businesses can prepare to adapt to these changes, the first step they need to take is understanding the potential impact on their own suppliers and customers.

“As the only UK high street bank with a customer-led Ethical Policy we want to support businesses during this period of uncertainty.  By extending our free introductory offer for SMEs, we are giving businesses who choose to switch to us 30 months of free banking.”

10 biggest concerns of SMEs Per cent of SMEs
Impact of Brexit upon the economy 30 per cent
Increase in operating costs 19 per cent
Competition 17 per cent
Red tape/regulation 14 per cent
Increasing supplier costs 14 per cent
How to take my business to the next stage in its journey 13 per cent
Changing customer behaviour 13 per cent
Late payments 13 per cent
Access to funding 11 per cent
Recruitment/retaining talent 10 per cent


The Co-operative Bank currently looks after the banking needs of around 84,000 SMEs, 700 co-operatives, 5,000 charities, and 279 credit unions.

The Bank’s award-winning Business Directplus Current Account was rated Five Stars by Moneyfacts in 2018 and has a market leading introductory offer of 30 months of free everyday banking to eligible SME customers.

The Bank also offers a free bank account for registered charities, co-operatives and credit unions – the Community Directplus Account – which provides them with an ethical way to bank for free and is also five star rated by Moneyfacts.  Community Directplus account holders have the opportunity to apply for funding through the Bank’s 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 the 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.

The Co-operative Bank also has a unique partnership with the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), the UK’s largest membership body and voice of SMEs and offers FSB members a bespoke account that is also five star rated by Moneyfacts.

The Co-operative bank also supports co-operative businesses in the UK and since February 2016, the Co-operative Bank and Co-operatives UK have partnered to create ‘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.