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To provide & Protect: The B4 finance debate brought to you in association with Wenn Townsend

In B4 Issue 54 we introduced the finance debate with Tony Haines, Partner at leading Oxfordshire accountancy firm, Wenn Townsend. In October we had the first of a series of Finance Lunches where we discussed how we can engage with local banks to find out more about the way they operate and de-mystify the banking process.

B4’s Colin (CR), Richard (RR) and Edward Rosser (ER) were joined by Tony Haines (TH) and also Sally Addis (SA) of Addis Law to discuss the most productive ways of engaging with local banks and how Oxfordshire’s businesses can learn what they need to do to access finance and what the banks are doing to protect our hard earned cash.

So what do we want to know? Tony’s key concern is that the banks change the lending criteria too frequently.

SOURCING FINANCE

TH “A number of my clients get so far down the road when applying for finance and then the rules and criteria seem to change. They want to know your affordability and seemingly want as much security as you have to provide to cover loans, especially commercial property loans.”

TH “So that’s the first question we want to ask – what are your criteria for lending and if this changes, why does it change? If we can get the banks to tell us what they’re looking for, then we can educate the business community. This doesn’t need to be confrontational. We are looking to help both sides of the equation work more efficiently. What doesn’t help is when a bank changes the criteria for, seemingly, no justifiable reason and that leaves a sour taste in the mouth. I might be wrong – that’s why we need the banks to give their side of the story.

“Most people think that banks give you an umbrella when the sun is shining and want it back when it’s raining. In the 1980’s you would get 3 or 4 credit card offers from the banks every week – now you don’t get any and we understand that the landscape has changed and banks need to be a lot more careful, but without finance, how are businesses expected to grow?

“The Chancellor yesterday hailed the end of austerity so does that mean lending becomes more relaxed, but still with clear guidelines? It is vital to be able to rely on banks to stick to their lending criteria and not change it half way through negotiations.”

SA “For someone to open a new business account can take three months or even longer. One of the new High Street banks like Metro is working hard to open accounts for customers on the same day and I expect the other high street banks are looking at that and thinking they might need to try to do the same. There are very rigorous controls to go through because of money laundering and that’s understandable, but the lack of efficiency from many high street banks in this area should be something they look at.”

TH “The business community should be told more about these processes so their expectations are managed.”

SA “People are very frustrated with the banks. They do not understand why there is so much bureaucracy – the form filling and box ticking they have to go through. I assume it is the procedures the banks have to go through for anti-money laundering checks.”

TH “Yes but criteria change.”

SA “Do you think it’s an excuse?”

TH “I don’t know, but we do a lot of private client work and the banks request SA302’s from the revenue. The revenue won’t give the forms to us so the individual has to get them from the revenue. That feels like we’re not providing a service. Now the revenue has a list of banks that they will accept a tax calculation from but trying to get that form out of the bank can be quite difficult.

“Many years ago, I went into a particular bank because I tried to do something and couldn’t get through on the phone. So I went into the branch and told the lady what my problem was. She asked me to wait and came back five minutes later. She gave me a number to call from a phone IN THE BANK and told me they would help. I told her I had already done that and she said she couldn’t help me. I was back to square one!

“I’m keen to ask the banks why they seem to have a policy to close as many branches as possible – I thought a bank was there to serve its community and not just its shareholders. Summertown used to have a number of banks and building societies that have vanished. The community is quite elderly in Summertown and I worry about their ethical policy.”

CR “Why don’t the banks get together – one branch for all? All pay in to that one branch? I think that’s a good idea!”

BANK FRAUD

TH “Another issue I am keen to get to grips with is fraud which is a massive issue which the elderly population is particularly exposed to…..how are the banks protecting them? The fraudsters have access to your accounts – it’s frightening how much information they have on you.”

RR “So we want to know how we’re going to get finance, how we can trust banks to protect our money and what the policy is on access to our money?”

CR “It is the most frustrating experience trying to get through to a bank with their security procedures yet a fraudster can seemingly walk into my online account and take what they want.”

SA “I heard recently of someone who had her e-mail account hacked by someone masquerading as her builder telling her, in his writing style, that he had new account details and she paid the new account (the fraudster). She didn’t get her money back – it was 10’s of thousands of pounds and it wasn’t the bank’s fault – it was hers – but that goes to show how easy it is to be tricked into losing your money.”

TH “This sort of fraud can only be stamped out by businesses and banks telling people but it seems like the banks are stepping away from these sorts of problems. Contactless is now an issue – just tap and go. Ed, what’s your view as a 21 year old?”

ER “It’s easy to spend money – it’s quite frightening to be fair. It’s equally frightening how other people can spend your money without you knowing about it…until it’s too late! People in London go around with a PDQ machine scanning people’s bags to get money which is scary.”

RR “I saw someone being interviewed on TV saying ‘if I have to put my pin in I feel like I am spending money but I don’t if I can tap.’ He ultimately runs out of money but it’s rather a worrying approach to take.”

ER “Despite all of these methods of helping us to bank, I still don’t feel like I have a good handle on my finances and it is a huge concern.

TH “If you had an e-mail (asking Colin) from the bank to say an employee’s details had changed would you check it?”

CR “Of course and I would expect that sort of instruction to come from the employee. But society is becoming increasingly lazy and communication between people is on the decline. We rely and trust technology and it ultimately causes problems.”

Thank you to Metro Bank for accepting our invitation to meet with B4 Members in December – read Issue 56 to read more about the outcomes of the discussion.

ABOUT THE ATTENDEES

Sally Addis, Addis Law

Sally Addis is a versatile business lawyer with a background of working in the City of London and Hong Kong. She has more than 25 years of experience in corporate, commercial and IT law. Sally started her legal career in London working for top city law firm Herbert Smith Freehills before moving to work in Hong Kong. She returned to work in London before she set up Addis Law in 2011. Addis Law has continued to flourish and currently acts for a wide range of clients: large corporates, SMEs, charities and private individuals. Addis Law supports M&A and other transactions but also handles a wide range of commercial contract work covering all sectors but with a focus on IT and technology.

Tony Haines, Wenn Townsend

Tony qualified as a chartered accountant with Wenn Townsend and has been a partner for over 14 years. Tony’s particular expertise is in corporate re-organisation and financial restructuring, working with UK subsidiaries of overseas holding companies and with those in the manufacturing sector. He is also a specialist when it comes to property, IT and media issues. With a particular interest in all things IT, Tony is an authority on system design and analysis, and is the partner at Wenn Townsend who is responsible for Practice Development.

Colin Rosser, B4

Colin graduated from Southampton University with an honours degree in engineering and has spent the last 45 years of his life in Print and Publishing. He was chairman and Chief Executive of Goodhead Print Group which went public in 1985 and had a record turnover of £75 million in 1989. He is the current chairman of B4.

Richard Rosser, B4

Richard has been Chief Executive of B4 for 12 years. While dealing with customers at all levels, Richard’s role is to co-ordinate the overall strategy of the Group and develop new products. A publisher, event creator and co-ordinator, his experience and contacts are valued by an ever increasing and impressive portfolio of clients.

Edward Rosser, NXT

Ed launched NXT in 2018 and is looking to expand its offering in 2019 whilst developing his own retail business, OXCUK which he launched in 2016. OXCUK specialises in clothing which Ed sells through the ASOS marketplace with clients all over the world.

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