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Are the local Banks lending to businesses?

PUBLISHED: 11:49 16 December 2011 | UPDATED: 20:27 20 February 2013

Are the local Banks lending to businesses?

Are the local Banks lending to businesses?

The banks say they are lending; small businesses don't always agree. We hear what the Cotswold business team at NatWest has got to say

Are the local Banks lending to businesses?



The banks say they are lending; small businesses dont always agree. We hear what the Cotswold business team at NatWest has got to say...



Project Merlin, an agreement between the UKs largest banks on lending, pay and bonuses was announced last February. Under the agreement, banks were required to lend 190 billion to businesses in 2011, including 76 billion to small business. A lot of water has gone under the bridge since then, not least the massive and continuing upheavals in the Eurozone, and this level of lending hasnt been achieved. Why?



NatWest spoke to 8000 small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the country to gain a deeper insight into what is really important to them. It reports a sense of disengagement and lack of trust, with many feeling that banks are out of touch and only 40 per cent believing they have a role to play in supporting their business ambitions. The remaining 60 per cent felt that banks had no role and a key reason for this is that their bank has not demonstrated or shown they can help (Source - Online Business Panel, iCD, September 2010 n=1,259).



Julie Powell, Director for Business Banking in Cheltenham and West Oxfordshire said: This is powerful and honest feedback and is helping us respond to these concerns, driving our desire to become the bank of choice for UK SMEs. Jim explained: We are using the research to shape the way we work. We want our customers to have the confidence to achieve their ambitions through working with us.



NatWest SME customers across the Cotswolds are supported by locally based relationship managers, who work with these businesses to understand their needs and help them achieve their ambitions. Julie Powell, and Jim Heppell, Director for Commercial Banking in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire lead the 44-strong team. One of the dedicated schemes run by the bank is called Ahead for Business which offers SMEs a relationship team who aim to add value to a business through their wider business and sector expertise.



We lead the way with regards to the Government lending initiatives such as the Enterprise Finance Guarantee and European Investment Bank schemes as well as specific sector funding packages, said Jim. But we understand that growth is not the main ambition for all SMEs. For many the focus is survival and day to day cash flow.



This is where the NatWest teams of locally based Business Managers and Relationship Managers help, alongside sector specialists in areas such as healthcare, agriculture and franchise all of whom Julie says are working towards industry accreditations to underpin their expertise. Wider banking needs can also be accommodated through invoice finance to help with late payments and protection against bad debtors, structuring asset finance solutions as well as support of overseas trade activity and day-to-day domestic and online banking.



GROWING BUSINESS



If growth is the main target, whether organic or through acquisitions or mergers, NatWest has a dedicated team to help with those transactions. Some people presume they only happen at the corporate level, but we have a dedicated team that can provide specialist expertise in this area to SMEs looking to exploit opportunities to expand, said Julie.



GETTING DOWN TO THE NITTY GRITTY



NatWests working with you programme is another area which highlights our commitment to working closely with customers and truly understanding their ambitions. The programme encourages our relationship managers to spend a minimum of two days at businesses to really understand genuine business issues. The more insight our relationship managers have, the more expertise they can bring to the table, Julie and Jim explain.



To find out how Nat West can help achieve business ambitions, email Julie.1.powell@natwest.com or jim.heppell@natwest.com or visit www.natwest.com/ahead

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