J.D. Power: PPP Forgiveness Drove Small Biz Satisfaction

Small businesses appreciated how their banks handled Paycheck Protection Program applications and forgiveness, according to a recent J.D. Power survey, but the pandemic continues to affect the finances of more than a quarter of small businesses.

Overall satisfaction among small businesses with their banks reached a record high in J.D. Power’s annual U.S. Small Business Banking Satisfaction Study, according to a statement from the data analytics firm. The 2021 study included responses from about 7,300 small business owners or financial decision-makers at small businesses that use business banking services. The study ran from June through August.

“Small business owners are feeling good about their banks and more confident about the economy, but just more than half of small businesses are financially healthy,” Paul McAdam, senior director of banking and payments intelligence at J.D. Power, said in the statement.

In the Northeast, which includes New England, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, the regional average for overall customer satisfaction was 822 on a 1,000-point scale, up from 819 in the 2020 survey. The top 10 banks in the Northeast this year were national and regional banks, with Chase having the highest score at 839, followed by Bank of America and TD Bank at 830.

The PPP process helped drive customer satisfaction. Small businesses that applied for PPP loans with their primary bank had an overall satisfaction rating of 853, 32 points higher than businesses that did not apply for a PPP loan, J.D. Power said. Small businesses that have completed the PPP loan forgiveness process had even higher satisfaction ratings, with an average of 869.

The study also found that 52 percent of businesses reported being financially stable with access to capital or credit to meet business needs. Of the remaining businesses surveyed, 26 percent said they were financially stressed, and 23 percent described themselves as financially vulnerable. The COVID-19 pandemic still impacts some businesses, with 28 percent saying the pandemic has a severe or major effect on their business.

“Banks can build upon the customer goodwill generated through PPP by providing solutions and information to address the range of financial challenges facing small businesses, including access to timely credit, improving business creditworthiness, building savings to cover a cash shortfall and having adequate insurance coverage,” McAdam said.

With an average rating of 829, national banks outperformed regional banks in customer satisfaction by 13 points. National bank customers also were more likely to say they had an easier PPP loan forgiveness process.

Banks that provide businesses with a dedicated account manager performed significantly better than banks without one. The average satisfaction score for small business banking customers with an account manager was 859, 73 points higher than small businesses without an assigned account manager.