How to get more referrals from bankers

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A new study of 850 UK accountants and bankers reveals how some accountants are building more profitable relationships with banks, writes Steve Pipe.

In early 2013 Mark Lee, Rob Brown and I conducted a large research study into the referral relationships between accountants and bankers. With help from some AccountingWEB members among a sample of 850 UK bankers and accountants, we were able to divide the profession into those who have successful referral relationships with banks and those who don’t.

As a result, it is now possible to divide the profession into those who...

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About Steve Pipe

Steve pipe

Steve is an FCA who is passionate about the profession. Often described as one of the world's leading strategists for the accounting profession, he has had helped hundreds of UK practices.


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06th Aug 2013 12:53

Free copies of the research report

The research report will not be officially published until September, when it will cost £295.

But I have a limited number of pre-publication copies that I can give away for free to accountingweb community members who are partners in UK accountancy firms that are determined to build more profitable referral relationships with banks.

Contact me on [email protected] if that describes you!

Thanks (0)
06th Aug 2013 13:24

No thanks

The problem I find with gaining referrals from bankers is.......having to form relationships with bankers. 

Now my clients, on the other hand, are lovely people and referrals from them are no problem.

Thanks (5)
06th Aug 2013 13:54

Sole practitioners too!

I have just received a private message asking if sole practitioners can also have a free copy - to which the answer is, of course, yes! Sorry not to have made that clear.

Thanks (0)
16th Aug 2013 13:55

Referrals from bankers

This piece of research blows the lid on a rich source of referrals for accountants - banking professionals. Think about it. Most bankers run portfolios of 50-500 business customers. At any one time, 10-20% of those will be either unhappy with or under-serviced by their current accountant. Given that most accountants are clueless about building relationships with bankers, don't you think this might represent a competitive edge and lucrative lead generation source for you? This document will give you all you need to identify, connect with and leverage the 3-4 banking relationships that will generate significant referral business for you for many years to come! And if you want to know what these bankers are really looking for, contact me!

Thanks (0)
16th Aug 2013 14:52

The report addresses things from both perspectives

The report tells bankers what accountants are looking for and it tells accountants what bankers are looking for.

When I was drafting elements of the commentary I noted that there were few surprises here. I added my own insights to explain some of the feedback from accountants, as did Steve. Rob Brown did the same re the feedback from bankers.

There is a wonderful opportunity here for those accountants who are prepared to invest some time in doing this properly. 

The relatively low level of interest that this discussion thread has generated to date (only c500 views in 10 days) suggests that most readers are not interested in even finding out more about this topic. That's a shame - but it is also echoed by many of the respondents to the survey that we conducted.


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19th Aug 2013 11:19

850 UK accountants & bankers (or bankers & accountants)

Steve/Mark - Have read the article again and was wondering is that 850 accountants & 850 bankers or 850 in total?  If the latter how was the sample split between them?

Thanks (0)
19th Aug 2013 11:39

Sample size

Paul - It was just over 700 accountants and 150 bankers.

Thanks (1)
19th Aug 2013 16:15

My experience

Thanks Steve - putting aside my natural aversion to want to approach bankers, my experience over the past 10 years or so is that, unless you are connected with significant business entities, attempting to form a relationship with any banker is doomed to be short term.

This was not always the case.  In my early days I did indeed form worthwhile connections with the managers of my local branches and, even though a few could be viewed as young Captain Mainwarings, regular contact in helping out our mutual clients was regarded as the norm and, over a period of time, I got to know which manager might be the better bet for a client and, likewise, they would approach me with new busines with which they felt I was best placed to help.

Such an environment no longer exists, well it doesn't where I operate, and the only person with whom I've had anything similar in recent years is my own manager, who remained in post for 3-4 years.

She was moved on 4-5 years ago and was followed by a series of administrators, most of whom, despite promises, never bothered to meet up.  Before she left my original manager told me that the bank's policy was hardening and that they did not want to leave managers (or whatever they are now called) in place for too long for fear of the relationships they might form with customers and their advisors becoming compromised.

This was borne out when, having spent 18 months getting to know her successor, and right in the middle of negotiations for finance of my largest client, he vanished, without warning, promoted to London.

This together with the mutual distrust that arose following the banking crisis (ie the banks seeing SME's as not worth the risk and punters seeing bankers as self serving leeches) has lead, in my mind, to a healthier position of just using banks as a place to keep your funds and organise standing orders and using other sources for financial assistance.

I do realise though that I may be weird but I'm still far happier to get a recommedation from a client than I ever would be from a bank manager. 


Thanks (4)
22nd Aug 2013 16:46

Thanks for your candour Paul


Thanks so much for explaining. And I can quite understand why you would feel that way given your experience.

What I find so exciting about the research is that while many other accountants (64%) share your frustrations with the banks, a sizeable minority (7%) have found a way to have very rewarding relationships with  them.

So by focussing on what those “successful” firms are doing differently, the report has been able to identify exactly what others who currently have unsuccessful/frustrating relationships with banks can do to start getting much better results.

Take a look. You may be pleasantly surprised.

Thanks (1)
22nd Aug 2013 17:21

Thanks Steve

I'm not doubting your survey results and am sure there are ways to improve things (let's face it, with a 7% (sizeable?) starting point the only way is up!) but I'm too long in the tooth and have got too used to my barge pole to want to take a different path.

By the way, how did the bankers view their relationships with accountants?



Thanks (2)
23rd Aug 2013 07:46

Bankers are happier!

OK. Of course that is your prerogative Paul.

To answer your question, bankers are happier with accountants than we are with them! For example:

1 - Rating their referral relationship with the other party on a scale of 1-10, bankers averaged 4.8, whereas accountants averaged only 3.8.

2 - 75% of bankers said accountants were one of their best sources of referrals, but only 23% of accountants said the same about bankers.

While seems to support the idea that the relationship is often one-sided. It also provides us with yet more reasons to look again at what we need to do to make the relationships more rewarding for us.

Thanks (1)
23rd Aug 2013 10:30

Thanks Steve

Interesting indeed, and I could put a different slant on what needs to be done but I've now used up my annual allowance in "banker think" time.


Thanks (1)
By kross
23rd Aug 2013 16:29

horses and water


Thanks for this research which I find fits with my approach and I'd find the full details useful.

I think the "you can take a horse to the water but can't make it drink" scenario applies in that a number of accountants will not take up the method of attracting new business (and may well have valid reasons for not doing so).


Thanks (1)
26th Aug 2013 18:16

Paul makes some good points

I have some good realtionships with bankers.  Two of my best friends - going back 20 years plus - are either current or retired senior managers.  An unrelated banker has referred 8 good quality clients after his mum and dad (!!) signed up with me and said he should get in touch.  And via my friends I know just about everyone locally in every branch.

Overall I largely agree with Paul.  My referring banker was swiftly promoted and replaced by someone who hasn't got much of a clue and shows no interest in relationship building.  Almost anyone you talk to in any bank who has worked there more than 10 years will tell you that local folk have minimal input into lending decisions and so forth.

So for anyone who decides this article is worth following up, my message is:

Whilst you may start out with a scattergun approach, it's likely that 90% or so of your local bank contacts will end up not producing the goods.  This is no reflection on you, just the lousy way UK banks are run.  In my view, if you can early on identify the 20% of local bank folk who COULD end up delivering, and focus all of your efforts on this crowd, you stand a much better chance of getting just the ONE you need to offer you ten or so decent referalls.  This way you'll get a decent payback for the time and effort you've put in.

Thanks (1)
By jonsa
27th Aug 2013 11:57

Well said Mr Mischief

But you missed the ending.  So you spend time and effort on the 10 or 20% once you have found them.  You get a few referrals. Within 1 to 2 years they move on, so you have to start again.  Therefore accountants who used to keep in touch with bankers are less likely too as now the relationship is often too short.

Thanks (2)