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Harris Poll: Amid economic uncertainty, traditional banks aren’t working for America’s small businesses

October 4, 2022

8 minutes

Economic uncertainty sends small businesses looking for better banking

Small businesses need help coping with high inflation and economic uncertainty—and they’re not getting it from traditional banks.

That’s the conclusion of a new survey Unit commissioned from Harris Poll, which found that 84% of small-business owners are now open to getting financial services from sources other than traditional banks—for example, big tech companies and e-commerce platforms.

For the purposes of this survey, “traditional banks” are defined as large, established financial institutions, for example JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, or Bank of America. (article continues below)

The uneven impact of inflation

With inflation at its highest rate in four decades, it should perhaps come as no surprise that 77% of small-business owners surveyed are concerned about the impact of inflation on their business.

That figure is even higher in the Northeast and Midwest. Overall, 40% say their business is in worse shape than it was a year ago, in the midst of the pandemic. (article continues below)

Weathering the storm

The survey paints a clear picture of small businesses in dire need of financial support during a downturn—and increasingly willing to embrace new banking solutions to get it. 

Cash is tight, so they need faster access to funds, and nearly two thirds are seeking additional financing. The stakes are high: Right now over a third (34%) expect to downsize their staff in the next six months. (article continues below)

A silver lining for small-business owners

The vast majority of small businesses aren’t satisfied with their current banks. Remarkably, 100% of survey respondents find at least one element of their current banking experience unsatisfactory. 

The most difficult tasks are getting the financing they need (70%), integrating with other apps and services (70%), and getting paid promptly (63%). Indeed, 31% say they’d rather wait in line at the DMV than apply for a loan from a traditional bank. 

But many small-business owners see a silver lining in the downturn: Nearly two-thirds say the current economic environment also creates new opportunities for their businesses.

They may also be creating new opportunities for other financial-services providers. Given the challenges small-business owners face with their current banking solutions, 84% would be open to banking with a provider other than a traditional bank, including big technology companies, e-commerce platforms, or business software tools that partner with banks to offer a new form of digital banking services. (article continues below)

An opportunity for innovative companies

Affordable loans (51%) and instant loan approval (49%) are the top factors that would inspire small-business owners to try a new provider.

America’s small-business owners are dissatisfied with traditional financial products and processes during the downturn—and that represents a considerable market opportunity. Enterprising technology companies have already started helping their small-business customers address these pain points. Because they offer a substantially better experience, digital-first offerings have the potential to drive considerable adoption—and thereby transform the face of business banking. (article continues below)


This survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Unit from July 26-August 8, 2022, among 500 small-business owners in the United States ages 18 and older. For the purposes of this survey, small businesses are defined as those with annual revenues between $25,000 and $20,000,000. 

The results were analyzed by age, gender, region, ethnicity, income, assets, business tenure, annual revenue, employee headcount, and industry.

Last updated

October 4, 2022

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