SME Banking in France: more than 6.5 million accounts


Incumbents still need to upgrade in the face of the wave of pure players

Paris. 9 November 2021. With five years’ experience in rating the digital performance of the retail banking sector, D-Rating has conducted its first campaign to measure the SME banking sector in 2021. The gaps it identifies between traditional banks and digital banks, which are very promising for the latter, are similar to those that prevailed in 2017 in retail banking; given the growing stakes attached to this customer segment, this new competition should stimulate the incumbent players to upgrade their digital performance, beyond the launch (or takeover) of specialised brands, following the example of the phenomenon of catching up that D-Rating has observed on a European scale in retail banking. In November 2020, fourteen incumbents, including BNP Paribas, and Société Générale, were ranked as « rich and efficient », along side Bunq, N26, Orange Bank and Revolut.

Digital & banking for professionals: a triple booster

1 – A significant number of potential new customers: in 2020, France saw a record number of new businesses, mainly micro-businesses: nearly 1 million, i.e. an increase of 31% in one year.

2 – A legislative measure (PACTE law) which requires the opening of a bank account specific to the activity, as soon as the turnover exceeds €10,000 per year for two years. Given the seduction competition between the various players, both traditional banks and new entrants, there is a strong incentive for an entrepreneur to opt for a « business » account rather than a « personal » account.

3 – A specific digital SME offer is exploding with Qonto (€124m raised since 2018 according to the eCAP PARTNER / D-Rating Barometer), Memo Bank (€26.4m), Mooncard (€5m), Anytime (bought in February 2021 by Orange Bank) or Shine (bought in the summer of 2020 by Société Générale), but also the launches by the traditional banks: Blank (Crédit Agricole), Prismea (Crédit du Nord), etc.

Overall view

As in 2017, we observe a clear separation in the overall score between digital banks on the one hand and traditional banks on the other.


As far as the customer journey is concerned, the results are not surprising, since digital banks have built their model on the performance of the customer journey. It is not surprising, in particular, that Blank, Qonto and Shine[1] are in the Top 3 regarding Account Opening.

On the same topic, and at the time of the evaluation, La Banque Postale was the only network bank to offer a complete digital customer journey, leading to the opening of an online account. For all the other players, a visit to a branch was necessary for our testers.

Evaluating contact channels, results are less discriminating between the two types of banks. And on this topic it is a « first generation » digital bank, HelloBank! (BNP Paribas group), which dominates the ranking, no doubt capitalising on the expertise it has acquired in this area in retail banking[1].

Looking at the features available, and especially those available on the app, Boursorama tops the ranking for the core banking functionalities (close to those available to retail banking customers). On the other hand, « beyond banking » (bill management, taxes, help with setting up a business) appears to be the playground of neobanks, among them Anytime.

Regarding available web features, the results are very different, and some traditional banks such as BNP Paribas, perform at least as well as the digital players.

The scope of digital access to offers seemed particularly interesting: through the network operation implemented by certain digital banks, which enables them to complete their offer thanks to partnerships with specialised digital companies.

Thus, thanks to partnerships with October or Younited (financing), Zettle, Lightspeed, Square (electronic payment terminals), etc., the neo-banks allow their SME customers, to access a range of services that meet all their professional needs, even if they are not produced and managed directly by their bank.

D-Rating will renew this study in 2022 and will monitor throughout the year the evolution of the functionalities available through mobile applications via its Market Alerts system ( which follows the evolution of banks’ mobile applications in real time.

At the end of October 2021, D-Rating estimates that there will be 6.6/6.7 million SME banking accounts in France, i.e. accounts designed to meet the needs of the self-employed (liberal professions, traders, etc.), micro-entrepreneurs and very small businesses. Among the brands operating on the retail market, it should be noted that Fortuneo (Arkea) or Ma French Bank (Groupe la Poste) do not yet have a specific offer, and that Hello Bank! SME offer was not launched until spring 2021. The very limited quantitative objectives of Memo Bank (4,000 customers in 2024) are justified by its positioning, which refuse self-employed customers, which led to its not being included in the panel studied by D-Rating.

The panel studied: this first campaign made it possible to study the following 16 brands[2] :

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The specificities of the digital evaluation of the Banque des Pro

For this first SME Banking rating, D-Rating focused its evaluation on the digital proposition (customer journeys, channels, access to offers, features) of the banks towards French SMEs.

As with the assessment of the retail bank, D-Rating evaluated three digital customer journeys: account opening, transfers, and appointment scheduling with an advisor. This evaluation was completed by a measurement of the performance of digital contact channels (mainly chat and chatbot) made available on mobile applications and authenticated web account. D-Rating also measured the possibility of accessing the bank’s offers through digital, as well as the features made available to users on mobile apps and on the web.

Evaluation of access to offers and features differs significantly from that of the retail banks. Regarding access to offers, D-Rating studied the following offers: short-term loans, cash investments, factoring, electronic payment terminals, business insurance/protection and health insurance. On digital features D-Rating has added some regarding banking operations (cash, cards and cheques), and what can be qualified as « beyond banking » (help with setting up a business, help with managing invoices, help with managing expense accounts and other accounting assistance, etc.), i.e. all that can help with the day-to-day management of the business in relation to the world of banking and payments.

[1] In this area, Hello Bank! was the second highest ranked French bank in 2020 among retail banks, behind… its parent company BNP Paribas.

[2] Due to the complexity of the account opening process, we were unable to achieve the evaluation of Arkéa and Mémo Bank at this stage

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