Small businesses are overall more satisfied with banking services at credit unions than big banks

Toronto, January 10, 2024 – Small businesses continue to be more satisfied with the overall level of service provided by credit unions rather than the Big Five Banks, finds the third and last report in the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)’s Financing Main Street research series.

Small businesses’ overall satisfaction with their banking services in 2022 is generally lower than in 2019. Credit unions have remained strong, while ATB Financial has lost a lot of ground.

“While big banks hold most of the small business market share, they’re not serving their small business clients as well as credit unions do. Banking fees remain a major cost constraint, many small businesses find it hard to contact someone at the bank directly, and they feel like their unique banking needs are not being taken seriously,” said Corinne Pohlmann, Executive Vice-President of Advocacy at CFIB. 

CFIB ranked banks and credit unions from 0 to 10 within the areas of financing, fees, account manager and service (such as access to online banking or easy-to-read bank statements). 

In 2019, credit unions not only received the highest overall score, but were also at the top in all four areas of evaluation. Three years later, credit unions continued to lead with the highest overall score of 5.97, while also topping the banking fees and account manager rankings. 

When it came to financing among the smallest businesses (up to four employees), National Bank received the best score (5.53), nearly tripling their score since 2019. For small businesses (5-49 employees), Desjardins and National Bank were at the top, followed by credit unions.

Overall, Desjardins improved its score, jumping from seventh place in 2019 to second in 2022. National Bank came in third, also an improvement from 2019 when it placed fourth overall. Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) was the highest-scoring bank among the Big Five and saw the largest increase, moving from ninth place to fourth overall. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC) and Scotiabank climbed one spot, while Bank of Montreal (BMO) and TD Canada Trust (TD) fell by one. ATB Financial, which placed second in 2019, dropped significantly to ninth place as many businesses felt that the bank failed to understand the struggles and challenges that they encountered throughout the pandemic.

“While there were some positive changes in the rankings, it’s still concerning that the top overall score decreased and comes in below 6.0. when the highest possible score is 10.0,” said Michelle Auger, CFIB senior policy analyst. “It shows there’s still a lot of room for improvement for all financial institutions, even the top-rated ones.” 

Quality of banking services during the COVID-19 pandemic

Small businesses also evaluated their banking experience during the pandemic in four separate categories: access to pandemic financing, assistance with fees and/or payments, remote service offering, and general satisfaction.

Desjardins, National Bank and credit unions received the highest scores, while the rest of the big banks were placed toward the lower end of the scoring range.

Big room for improvement 

To make it easier for small businesses to access financing and improve the quality and affordability of banking, CFIB recommends government:

  • Ensure that financial institutions adhere to the Small Business Banking Code of Conduct.
  • Expand the consumer provisions of the Bank Act to include small businesses.
  • Carefully review banking mergers and acquisitions.
  • Ensure new banking/payment entrants and technologies are affordable and accessible to small businesses.

Financial institutions should also increase access to low-cost financing for small businesses, ensure small business bankers get to know their clients, and not promote credit cards as a main alternative source of long-term financing. 

“Small businesses deserve efficient, responsive, and helpful banking services,” Pohlmann concluded.

For media enquiries or interviews, please contact:
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, CFIB

About CFIB
The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is Canada’s largest association of small and medium-sized businesses with 97,000 members across every industry and region. CFIB is dedicated to increasing business owners’ chances of success by driving policy change at all levels of government, providing expert advice and tools, and negotiating exclusive savings. Learn more at