M&T Bank Corp. ranked third in the country for satisfaction among small-business banking customers in a new national study that also found small businesses happier with their banking service than they were last year.
The report by J.D. Power & Associates gave Buffalo-based M&T a score of 764 on a 1,000-point scale, tying it for third place with Branch Banking & Trust, the primary subsidiary of BB&T Corp. of Winston-Salem, N.C.
Both ranked "among the best" on J.D. Power's ratings scale.
M&T, the nation's 16th-largest U.S.-based bank, has long put a high priority on small business and middle-market lending.
It's the sixth-largest provider of federally guaranteed Small Business Administration loans in the country, and the third-largest east of the Mississippi River. It's also the top SBA lender in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
"This rating really reflects the long-term commitment at M&T Bank to small business in the communities we serve, which we consider a vital part of our role as a community bank," said M&T spokesman Chet Bridger.
J.D. Power's highest ranking went to M&I Bank, a subsidiary of Milwaukee-based Marshall & Ilsley Corp., with a score of 768. The survey said it performed particularly well with account activities, despite having a higher occurrence of maintenance fees than other banks.
M&I was acquired in July by Toronto-based BMO Financial Group, parent of Bank of Montreal and Chicago-based Harris Bank, and the U.S. banks were combined into Harris.
Columbus, Ohio-based Huntington National Bank, part of Huntington Bancshares, came in second, scoring 767.
Cleveland-based KeyCorp's KeyBank, the No. 4 bank in Buffalo, came in fifth, with a score of 763, just behind M&T and Branch and tied with TD Bank, the U.S. unit of Toronto-Dominion Bank.
Both M&T and Key were among 13 major U.S. banks that last month pledged to increase small-business lending by a total of $20 billion over three years.
The average bank score was 717. Among other banks with a Western New York presence, RBS Citizens Bank, came in ninth, scoring 739.
HSBC Bank USA, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Citigroup's Citibank, Wells Fargo & Co. and Bank of America Corp. were all below average, scoring 715, 711, 693, 683 and 669, respectively.
The study found that overall satisfaction among small-business banking customers rose this year from 2010, returning to the levels of 2009. Specifically, average satisfaction measured 717 on a 1,000-point scale, up from 711 in 2010.
The J.D. Power survey measures satisfaction based on six factors: product offerings, account managing, credit facility, account information, problem resolution, credit services, fees and account activities.
The study was based on nearly 7,000 responses in August and September from small businesses with sales ranging from $100,000 to $10 million.
"Contrary to popular belief that most customers are unhappy with their bank, small-business banking customers are more satisfied than last year across nearly all aspects of the banking experience," said Michael Beird, J.D. Power's director of banking services.
"In addition, credit availability has increased, indicating greater stability and a return to some degree of normalcy within the small-business banking environment."