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The TSB fiasco shows no sign of ending. Five weeks after the bank ran into problems after a botched migration to a new computer system, business and personal account holders are still having problems making payments and accessing other account features. If you’ve decided to leave, you might be wondering what the alternatives are like. I’m a customer of Santander Business Banking, and here’s my experience after three years with the bank.
Santander Business Banking – online banking
Banking is about as sexy as a weather forecast. It’s there to do a job and nothing else. That perfectly sums up the experience of Santander Business Banking’s online service: it’s functional, and nothing more.
First and foremost, security. You must log in with a long personal ID number provided by the bank, which can’t be changed but can be remembered on your computer if remembering 12-digit strings of numbers isn’t your thing.
Once you’ve entered the ID, you’ll be shown a familiar photo and phrase to prove you’ve arrived on the bank’s actual website. You’ll then be asked for three characters from your password (chosen by you) and three numbers from a five-digit security number (also chosen by you). If you’ve entered those two pieces of information correctly, you’ve cracked the vault and you’re in.
Next you’ll be presented with a dashboard showing balances from all the accounts you have with the bank. This includes personal accounts, too. I have my mortgage and a personal credit card with Santander, and the balances of those are shown here; handy for me as a sole trader, not so desirable for those who give staff/accountants access to their business banking account. You can choose to hide those personal accounts from the dashboard, though.
Santander has opted for the John Major colour scheme – grey and more grey – but the information is clearly presented and everyday functions are easy to find.
Making payments to staff, suppliers or others is a two-step process. First, you enter the amount you wish to pay and to whom – the details of regular payees are retained so you don’t need to re-enter those.
When you’ve confirmed the amount you wish to pay, you’ll normally be sent a one-time passcode to your mobile phone to complete the payment. This eight-digit code must be entered before the transaction is confirmed, as a security measure. The only exception to that is if you’re making payments to your own bank accounts, in which case Santander deems such belt-and-braces unnecessary.
The one-time passcodes normally arrive within a few seconds, but they can occasionally suffer delays. On more than one occasion, I’ve had to ring the bank to manually authorise a payment when an OTP failed to arrive, but that is rare.
Other features available from Santander include mobile alerts. These are highly customisable, allowing you to, for example, be sent an alert when your balance drops below a figure of your choice, or if a payment goes out that’s greater than a set figure. The latter is a good way to prevent fraud.
Santander Business Banking also supports mobile payments, so customers can pay you with nothing more than your mobile number, although I’ve never used this service.
Statements can be downloaded in PDF format, and Santander is compatible with many online accounting systems if you need to export data for bookkeeping.
Santander Business Banking – the app
The Santander Business Banking app (Android) is similar in scope to the website. It’s not going to win any design awards – in fact, it makes the Phone Book look like Wired. But it does a job.
Security is identical to the website, requiring you to enter randomly chosen digits from your password and security number. It’s disappointing that Santander Business Banking is yet to support fingerprint login, like its personal app. It’s even more disappointing that you have to manually click on the Next box when entering your security number/password instead of the app automatically moving on. It’s one of those small attention-to-detail failures that doubles the amount of time it takes to log in.
Once you’re in the app, most of the features you’ll need on a day-to-day basis are there: payments, transfers, the ability to search transactions, etc.
Santander needs to up its game in the mobile app. For personal banking (with Halifax, since you ask), I tend to do most of that via the mobile app as it’s easier to log in and perform quick transactions. The sluggish login and clunky design of Santander’s mobile app mean I only tend to use it as a fallback option if I need to check a balance or make a payment while I’m out.
Santander Business Banking – overall
When I were a lad, we used to call a functional pair of trainers ‘David Battys’. They didn’t look flash, but they did a job. Santander is definitely the David Batty of the business banking world. It’s not ostentatious, but it’s dependable, straightforward and it doesn’t fall down a hole for five weeks at a time.
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Santander Business Banking scores
Online banking features and design
Mobile app (Android) features and design
A safe pair of hands for business customers, but the mobile app definitely needs work