In an ideal world, banks would provide a truly personal service to GP practices, giving you the best financial advice and excellent customer support.
Your branch manager would also always be available to speak to you.
In reality, however, the practice's bank is unlikely to tick all these boxes.
GP finance knowledge
Practices may find that some of the services available with their business current account are not 'customer-focused' enough (not tailored to your needs). This can be compounded if you are with a branch where the manager/staff do not understand general practice finance.
A classic example of this is where the practice is in a rural area and its bank, which is located some distance away, fails to appreciate that the GPs are running a complex business providing essential services to the local community.
But whether your practice is prescribing-only or dispenses, big or small, city-based or rural, you need a bank that understands how to support your business.
Terms and conditions
You need to be confident that your business account's terms and conditions and loan/mortgage arrangements are fair; that you will not unreasonably be refused help with temporary cash flow problems or be charged an exorbitant rate when using an agreed overdraft facility.
Nor should the bank give scant attention to a sound business case you pitch to it on, for example, expanding the practice's healthcare activities or upgrading the surgery.
There is no need to stay with an unsatisfactory bank 'for life'.
If the service you get is substandard, be prepared to shift your account to one of its rivals.
This should not be too difficult: GP practices are regarded as much lower risk that many other types of small business.
In any case it is advisable to review your relationship with the bank at least every three years - more frequently would be better.
Most banks will offer the practice a personal relationship manager. This person should understand your business and also have the authority to make decisions on loans and overdraft facilities.
The practice and the relationship manager should meet on a regular basis, at least once or twice a year. This will also give the practice the option to discuss the service being provided.
Rival banks may offer inducements such as better loan terms. Special deals for new business customers may include 'free business banking' or other perks for a set period of time.
If you do hint at a move, the bank may decide the practice is a highly valued customer after all and offer you different products and incentives to stay.
This might include a willingness to reduce its charges for credits and debits into/out of your account - or to renegotiate overdraft terms or even a surgery mortgage. Compare how well two or three other banks understand GP finances and what they can offer the practice before deciding if a move really will be beneficial.
- Paul Williams is director of Williams Primary Care Solutions, www.williamsprimarycare.co.uk