All posts by: Iris Lefroy

Suzuki goes large with its new Across model, with lots of help from Toyota

Park an Across alongside a RAV4 and you might play a fruitful game of ‘Spot the Difference’, highlights Iain Robertson, as he ponders over the awkward situation in which independent brand Suzuki finds itself, while needing to broaden its profile.

One of my favourite TV comedy sketches of all time is ‘The Cheese Shop’, in which a ‘difficult’ John Cleese attempts to buy a non-existent slab of dairy product from a recalcitrant but cheery Michael Palin. When you consider the exceptionally long list of cheese types rattled off by Cleese, you might also wonder why so many of them exist at all and nearly every nation in the world has a representative selection…all of which adds to the comedic value, of course.

During the heyday of BLMC, the sometime UK nationalised carmaker, the art of ‘badge engineering’ reached its unwarranted zenith, with both Austin and Morris branded versions of virtually identical ‘1300’ models, compounded with Wolseley, Riley, MG and Vanden Plas, all vying for the same market share, of an already (at the time) overcrowded market. How they managed to satisfy brand lovers was anybody’s guess but they probably did not anyway.

The connection between cheese and motorcars is not quite as tenuous as you might think. While not wishing to upset the dairy product connoisseurs, who can become every bit as shirty as the wine-gluggers, some yellow cheeses can be exceptionally difficult to tell apart. A yellow ochre Austin 1300GT was all but identical to its Morris counterpart. Okay, so the ‘blue-veined’ Riley managed to look a bit different to the ‘green-hued’ Wolseley, while MG was alone in offering a two-door variant and the VdP alternative added chrome, leather and wood…

Picture the situation confronting Suzuki. It needs desperately to rebuild a profile that has been looking shaky at best over the past year, or so. It has ditched its stunning 1.0-litre turbo-petrol engines, done away with both its Indian-built Baleno and its city runabout Celerio, in the process destroying almost 33% of its UK model range. It also got into bed with the immense Toyota Corp, around a year ago, with the initial plan being to increase its SUV profile and also (probably) reissue Baleno, or another former Suzuki model name, in a sporty estate car. At the heart of this seemingly happy relationship lies a need for electrification…not the ‘full Monty’ but plug-in hybrid developments.

While the estate car will be based on the Toyota Corolla, the first product to be introduced this autumn will be Suzuki’s badge-engineered version of Toyota’s RAV4, the Across. For what it is worth, the RAV4 is a particularly good hybrid SUV. For a brief period of time, Suzuki will have the advantage of a plug-in version, which boasts an excellent 22g/km CO2 exhaust emissions and an EV driving range of around 42-miles. As most commutes fall well within the stated range, the Across driver may never have to dip into the petrol engine’s resources.

Apart from the plug-in development, which Toyota will feature in due course, the core engineering is identical. The engine is an Atkinson cycle 2.5-litre, four-cylinder unit that drives all four wheels through an e-CVT (constantly variable transmission), developing a slightly confusing 136kWrpm, which equates to around 200bhp. Actually, it works in conjunction with the front electric motor, which draws its energy from an 18.1kWh lithium-ion battery pack located beneath the cabin floor. The engine provides extra power, when it is called into action, but most of the time it ensures that the battery is topped-up. The drive priority is always electric, although four selectable settings allow the driver some control over how the system operates.

Four-wheel drive is provided by an additional rear-located electric motor (40kW) that is electronically managed to vary between 100% to 20% rearward torque bias, dependent on conditions. Working in this way, traction is improved and handling balance is optimised. Known as AWD Integrated Management, it works without driver intervention to maximise stability.

Rest assured, none of this technology has originated with Suzuki, as it is all Toyota’s work. It was hoped that the Suzuki-badged variants would be produced at Toyota’s Derby plant, in the UK, but it seems that the RAV4 connection is going to be sourced from Japan, leaving the Corolla-based model to be produced in the UK, thus providing Suzuki with its first-ever British-built model, in the not too distant future. Regardless, the interior accoutrements are up to the latest Toyota standards, which means a satisfying blend of high build quality and first-rate tactility.

Practicality has been placed high on the list of features and the amount of space allocated to storage, drinks-holders and in-car clutter strikes a new peak. The boot offers an excellent 490-litres of largely unobstructed carrying potential, a figure that almost trebles, when the back seats are rolled forwards. However, the cabin is also well-proportioned to accommodate up to five people in decent comfort. The final specification of British versions of the Across (which I believe ought to be called the ‘A-Cross’, to make it sound similar to the Suzuki S-Cross) are yet to be determined but it is likely to be at the top end of the range.

The impact on the recently revised Suzuki price list, which has taken an extraordinary leap upwards, means that the Across will become Suzuki’s luxury model and you can reckon on it settling between £36,000 and £40,000, which is going to make some Suzuki customers take a leap into the dark in value terms. The technology is not cheap but Suzuki GB will be working its most recent ‘Fleet Department’ hard to get some return on investment.

Do I believe it to be a good move on Suzuki’s part? Well, unfortunately, with new car development costs verging on unaffordable for some carmakers, Suzuki really has little choice but to lean on its technology ‘partner’, Toyota. It would be nice to see a greater slice of ‘Suzukiness’ but I would not seek it, were I you. Suzuki is going to make up some vital ground with its Toyota-provided, plug-in hybrid developments. Quite how British car buyers will receive this project remains to be seen.

Public appreciate efforts of retailers and their staff – BRC-Opinium coronavirus survey

The BRC and Opinium have been working together to track consumer behaviours and their sentiment towards coronavirus. This research has run weekly since 1st May 2020, with the latest survey taking place between 26-29 June 2020.

  • Public perceptions of retail staff has improved since the pandemic began. 35% saying their views of retail staff has improved, compared with 3% who say it’s got worse (62% stayed the same or unsure).
  • 49% of respondents felt that retailers were doing enough to protect the public from coronavirus, with only 10% disagreeing. This is slightly down on the previous week (53% agree, 9% disagree).
  • 12% of shoppers intended to visit shops to browse, down from 15% last week. Those who intended to visit shops for necessary items also fell slightly from 53% to 52%. Those who said they would avoid visiting shops if possible rose from 28% to 32%. Younger (18-34) respondents showed the most willingness to visit shops, with 15% saying they intended to browse, compared with 27% who intended to avoid going to shops if possible.
  • Respondents feeling comfortable about making purchases in-store fell to 59% for groceries (19% uncomfortable) while non-groceries fell slightly to 35% (17% uncomfortable). This compared to 64% (18% uncomfortable) for groceries and 39% (15% uncomfortable) for non-groceries the previous week.
  • On the wearing of masks, 60% either currently wear a mask in stores, or intend to. This is the same as the previous week.

Helen Dickinson OBE, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said:

“With footfall only up slightly during the second week of reopening, it seems that the initial burst of enthusiasm on the high street may not last, as the ongoing pandemic and economic downturn weigh down on consumers.

“Nonetheless, retail colleagues have shown themselves to be among the real heroes of the pandemic, with over a third of people saying their view of them has improved, compared with just 3% who disagreed. It is now time that government ensure that these heroes are recognised, and that the jobs of three million retail workers are protected. This will require additional measures by government to boost demand and rebuild public confidence.”

“The haphazard response to the outbreak in Leicester has shown that government must create a clear framework for handling future local outbreaks, supporting retailers and other businesses in the areas affected.”

Unity Trust Bank appoints new chief operating officer

Unity Trust Bank has appointed Mark Clayton as its new chief operating officer, to lead Unity’s customer proposition and support growth.

Mark joins Unity Trust Bank after 23 years at HSBC, having held a number of senior roles. Most recently, Mark was head of premier distribution where he led the strategic growth of the retail premier and international business.

Headquartered in Brindleyplace, Birmingham, Unity Trust Bank supports businesses and organisations that share its philosophy to support economic, community and social change.

In March this year, Unity Trust Bank announced a 30% increase in lending growth over 2019, with over £243m of loans approved to socially responsible businesses.

Mark will lead the Bank’s customer proposition to ensure Unity is well positioned to meet the needs of its existing customers and those businesses seeking change.

Commenting on his appointment, Mark said: “I am delighted to be joining at such an exciting time. Having focused on financial wellbeing and seen first-hand the positive impact it has made, I have a deep understanding of the vital role that banks play in society. Unity’s ambition to deliver sustainable growth and make a positive and lasting change in the communities it serves were key factors in my decision to join the team.

“The last few months have been unprecedented on many levels. Unity has adjusted working arrangements to keep colleagues safe while remaining focused on supporting our customers. Amid this uncertainty I believe that customers will seek out those organisations that provide excellent service, and we have a unique opportunity to demonstrate how banking can be better.”

CEO of Unity Trust Bank, Margaret Willis, added: “Mark’s vast experience will be a hugely valuable addition to the team. These are uncertain times for many businesses and Unity will continue to adapt and respond quickly to their needs, ensuring customers remain central to our thinking.”.

Cisco launches 0% financing programme to support SMEs in Singapore

Cisco has launched a new financing programme to help SMEs purchase its products at 0% interest and with no upfront costs, at a fixed 3-year monthly payment term. SMEs will be able to purchase hardware, software solutions as well as services under the programme.

The launch of the programme comes as the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuing lockdowns across the region to control its spread, have disrupted supply chains and decreased business activities. The nature of SMEs means that they likely have a smaller pool of capital reserves. This coupled declining revenues has put a strain on cash flows of many SMEs, especially in sectors such as retail, construction, hospitality, and food and beverage — most of which have relatively high supply costs.

SMEs are critical to Singapore’s trade and commercial landscape. They employ 65% of Singapore’s workforce and contribute nearly 50% of Singapore’s economic output. The Singapore government has responded swiftly with assisted loan schemes offering S$4.5 billion to businesses, a large chunk of which has gone to SMEs.

As the government starts to ease the Circuit Breaker restrictions and reopen the economy, SMEs are looking to adopt technology and digitize their business to resume operations safely, open new growth opportunities and contribute to the overall economic recovery post Covid-19. The new programme from Cisco is aimed at providing financial support to SMEs that seek to equip themselves with the necessary tools and solutions to accelerate their business in the new digital era.

“The outbreak of Covid-19 has had a huge impact on SMEs across the country. However, the situation has also brought about a rapid shift in mindset of SMEs as they are now more receptive to the idea of integrating technology in various aspects of their business and accelerate their digital transformation journey not just as a means of survival in the current environment but also for driving future growth. The financing programme will make it easier for local SMEs to start and continue their digital journeys. The world is going through an uncertain economic period and at Cisco, we are committed to doing our part to help lighten the burden for Singapore’s SMEs,” said Andy Lee, managing director, for Cisco Singapore.

“Ensuring that SMEs are able to leverage technology to continue to sustain and grow their business is critical for the overall economy, not least because the sector accounts for more than two-thirds of all jobs in Singapore. If businesses in the sector grow, they will continue to protect and even create jobs and add to Singapore’s economic recovery post Covid-19,” he added.

The 0% financing programme will provide SMEs access to necessary technological enablers from Cisco that include software, hardware and services without breaking their budget. SME’s will enjoy a 3-year, full payout lease plan where they pay equal 36-month payments on their Cisco purchases that costs between USD20,000 to USD300,000. and will fully own the equipment at the end of contract period.

“Cisco’s financing program offers built-in capabilities to ensure successful cash flow management for SMEs. Businesses can secure the technology they need to run their business with regular, predictable payments and 0% interest rate. They can also eliminate upfront costs, preserving their financial resources for other business priorities,” said Raz Mohamad, director small business and commercial for ASEAN at Cisco.

“SMEs are the backbone of ASEAN economies, accounting for over 85% of total business establishments and making up the main contributions to private sector employment in the region. However, they are currently facing the biggest challenges to their operations. Technology can help solve some of their key challenges and revitalize their operations. It is more important than ever for partners like Cisco to provide the much-needed assistance, not just through our solutions and expertise but also through programmes that can help alleviate financial concerns,” he added.

The new financing option is now available for any SME’s through Cisco Capital, the vendor financing business within Cisco that delivers customer-centric, partner-enabled payment options for Cisco-led solutions.

or more information on the programme, visit

New report shows importance of large family businesses to UK economy

New research by the IFB Research Foundation sheds fresh insights into UK family business. Compiled by RepGraph, the new report The Largest Family Businesses in the UK analyses the largest UK family-owned firms.

The analysis found that 1 in 5 of the largest businesses in the UK are family owned. Of the 1,551 largest companies in the UK, 19.8% are family-owned and most of those (11.7% of the total) are owned by UK families.

This report builds on existing knowledge of the central contribution family firms make to the UK economy. Existing research, conducted by Oxford Economics, shows that family firms in the UK employ more than 13 million people, generate a quarter of GDP, and pay more than £180bn annually in tax.

Whilst the majority of family firms in the UK are small and medium-sized businesses, this report demonstrates that large family businesses play an important role in the UK economy, which highlights the importance to support and grow this sector of our business community in these uncertain times.

The report also shows that family businesses prevalence amongst the largest businesses has been stable over the second half of the past decade. Around three-quarters of the large family firms identified by the researchers in 2016 were still operating family businesses with a turnover of more than £500m in 2020. This points towards the resilience of family owned firms, with many businesses growing and thriving over generations and centuries.

Elizabeth Bagger, director general of the Institute for Family Business, welcomed the new report: “People often assume that when we talk about family firms that exclusively refers to small businesses. This research is important in demonstrating the diversity in terms of business size, geographic location and sector of the UK family business community. It’s no surprise either that many of the family firms in the largest group are hundreds of years old. They have successfully built a culture of entrepreneurship amongst their family and have continued to grow their business sustainably.

“Coronavirus has had a significant impact on all parts of our economy, including on family firms. Although we don’t yet know the scale of that, I am hopeful that the findings in this report about the resilience of family firms before the crisis hit will mean that those businesses are in a strong position to be able to see through the current challenges and be part of the rebuilding of our economy as we look to our long-term recovery.”

Sir Michael Bibby, chairman of Bibby Line Group and of the IFB Research Foundation, commented on the new report: “It is fantastic that we have been able to complete this important analysis of UK family businesses with a turnover of more than £500m during the lockdown. For the first time we have reviewed the holding and subsidiary company split and thus identified nearly 1000 separate family groups who contribute so much to the way of life in this country.”

Sir Michael continued: “The data shows the number of large family businesses that employ many people and pay significant taxes to support our economy. In this time of great change and uncertainty, they also provide a bedrock of resilience. Their long-term outlook has sustained them often through many generations, covering previous wars, feasts and famine.

“My own family business, Bibby Line Group, first supported the country carrying mail to Ireland in the early 1800s and took troops to and from the Boer War. Today our businesses, such as Costcutter, have provided pop up stores in hospitals so key workers can easily get supplies. Garic, together with Bibby Distribution, are trialling the first Covid drive-through testing centres. Bibby Financial Services is distributing CBILS loans and Bibby Marine is providing accommodation barges to the Singapore government to house migrant workers who would otherwise have been at risk of catching the pandemic in overcrowded dormitories.

Like many other family businesses during the Covid pandemic we have tried to make decisions quickly, be agile and change our business activity to meet new demands.”

You can access the full report here.

Aldermore provides £5m refinance facility to Quintain subsidiary

Aldermore, the specialist lender, has provided a £5m, 10 year, interest only Commercial Residential Investment refinance facility to Quintain Alto Residential Limited – a subsidiary of Quintain, which owns 13 apartments in Wembley Park’s Alto building, a development completed in 2017. The apartments are privately let and managed by Wembley Park Residential, Quintain’s private sales and lettings management team.

Warren Harrocks of Heron Financial advised Quintain and worked alongside James Maunder Taylor, head of finance advisory at Crestbridge Property Finance who recommended Aldermore for the financing as a lender who would consider a lower debt quantum and provide a high level of flexibility and service. This deal represents one of Aldermore’s major commercial residential investment transactions.

James Maunder Taylor, director at Crestbridge Property Finance said: “I have worked with Aldermore for many years, as the team can always be relied upon to take a commercial approach and deliver quickly; they were the perfect fit to meet Quintain’s requirements for this deal.”

Caroline Baker, lending manager at Aldermore said: “This financing demonstrates our ability to work with large developers to provide them with the bespoke facilities they need.

“We are delighted to be working with Quintain and to have been involved in such a high profile scheme. We worked hard to provide competitive terms which suited Quintain’s requirements and were able to turn the deal around swiftly. This deal underpins why Aldermore exists to back clients like Quintain and their ambitions.”

Bank support safeguards jobs at Stafford-based mobility equipment supplier

A leading provider of specialist mobility equipment for elderly and physically disabled people, has been able to secure all the jobs of its 36 staff during the coronavirus shutdown, after securing a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) from Lloyds Bank.

Stafford-based Easy Living Mobility is one of the UK’s largest retailers of innovative mobility products including daily living aids, mobility scooters, manual and electric wheelchairs, rise recliners and stairlifts. It has a regional network of 12 stores across the Midlands and Staffordshire and serves more than 35,000 customers each year.

Like many ‘non-essential’ retail businesses, Easy Living Mobility faced unprecedented circumstances from the coronavirus outbreak as it was forced to close its doors to customers. The impact of lockdown on the firm’s cash flow has been significant, and it has had to furlough around two-thirds of its staff.

Lloyds Bank helped the firm to navigate the government support available and arranged a £307,000 funding package using the CBILS. This has enabled the firm to maintain some of its administration operations during the pandemic to respond to customer queries, giving it sufficient funds to pay its suppliers, whilst also being able to meet its own operational overheads and staff costs.

The business has recently re-opened its stores in-line with the government’s gradual relaxation of lockdown measures, but as many of Easy Living Mobility’s customers are aged over 70 years and therefore classified as vulnerable, the business’ recovery from the crisis is likely to be gradual. As such, the loan from Lloyds Bank will also allow Easy Living Mobility to more effectively trade back out of the pandemic over the longer-term.

Established in 2001, Easy Living Mobility also specialises in disabled bathroom conversions and installations and provides a mobility scooter repair service to its customers. The business’ stores are located in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Leek, Cannock, Lichfield, Dudley, Kidderminster, Hanley, Walsall, Northfield, Wylde Green, Telford and Wolverhampton.

The CBILS funding arranged by Lloyds Bank is also supporting Easy Living Mobility’s sister company Motus Medical, a leading supplier of specialist lightweight wheelchairs and powered wheelchairs.

Daniel Griffiths, director at Easy Living Mobility said: “Our specialist mobility equipment improves the quality of our customers’ lives. Unfortunately, they haven’t been able to access our stores or any of our installation or maintenance services during lockdown, and this has had a big impact on our customer’s lives as well as our business.

“We’ve seen a substantial decrease in turnover since the crisis unfolded, so the support we’ve had from Lloyds Bank has been invaluable. The team was really helpful and quickly provided a funding solution to give us the cashflow needed to meet our overheads and other costs during lockdown. This has been a real lifeline for our business.”

Adam Hartshorne, relationship manager at Lloyds Bank said: “The service and support that Easy Living Mobility provides to its customers is second to none. It helps people who rely on disability and mobility aids to live more independently, which is critical to their wellbeing. But as the business predominantly services a market that’s been impacted by the lockdown and social distancing rules, it needed extra support during these challenging times.

“We’re working flat out to help firms like Easy Living Mobility to navigate the disruption caused by Covid-19. This includes lending through the Bounce Back Loan Scheme and Coronavirus Business Interruption Scheme, as well as capital repayment holidays on loans for businesses that have been affected.”

Poorest face toughest climb back out of unemployment post Covid19

Leading skills organisation City & Guilds Group has today issued an urgent call on the government to redirect billions of pounds of unspent and underutilised skills funding to help the newly unemployed get back into work as it releases new research on jobs and skills.

The Recovery and Resilience report, which includes a survey undertaken by YouGov for City & Guilds Group amongst 2,000 working and non-working adults in the UK, found that people from lower socio-economic groups were less likely to believe that they have the support needed to get a new job in several critical areas:

  • Using support from my personal contacts –24% C2DE vs 35% ABC1
  • Using support from previous employer –18% C2DE vs 28% ABC1
  • Using support from a recruitment consultant –18% C2DE vs 29% ABC1
  • In addition, 14% of respondents from lower socio-economic groups stated they just don’t know what to do to enable them to get a new job.

The report found that affordability was a key blocker preventing people from undertaking vital training and skills development to get back into employment. 33% of people from lower socio-economic backgrounds stated that they could not afford training and they are also less likely to know how to access funding to pay for a course (26%). These figures rise to 59% and 43% respectively amongst people who are already unemployed.

Unemployment is forecast to double to 4.5 million by the end of this year, with young people and those from lower socio-economic groups expected to bear the brunt of the fall. New analysis from economists at Emsi, included in today’s report, reveals that new job postings fell by 30% between February and May. According to analysis from Emsi, those from lower-socio economic groups work disproportionately in the industries thought to be most at risk of mass redundancies, such as retail, catering and hospitality. However, these worse off groups are also less likely to be able to access the support structures that the more affluent can rely upon if they are made redundant.

Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO at City & Guilds Group, commented: “As we get the country back on the road to recovery and set employment levels on the right trajectory, it is critical that we act now to provide lifelines for those most in need. From supporting those from lower socio-economic groups and young people who we know will be most badly impacted by the spike in unemployment through to supporting people from industries in decline as a result of the pandemic to retrain into new roles.

“To counter the mass unemployment which, if left unchecked, will scar the futures of a generation, we are calling on the government to urgently redirect existing skills funding to ensure that the budgets set aside for further education are being allocated in the right way, with the right focus to support skills development that promotes social mobility. There is no more time to consult, we have both the means to make this happen and the evidence to prove how much it is needed. This is our ‘Act Now’ moment.”

Rob Halfon, MP, chair of the House of Commons Education Select Committee added: “The impact of Covid-19 risks severely stifling our economy and exacerbating disadvantages in this country. The prime minister’s recent announcement guaranteeing an apprenticeship for every young person is hugely exciting, but we must also do more to ensure that everyone around the UK has the chance to retrain, re-skill and find employment. To achieve this, the correct allocation of funds and investment in apprenticeships, FE and skills must be the number one priority for the chancellor.

“As well as unlocking underused, existing skills funding, I am calling on the government to introduce a skills tax credit to offer to companies who take on the unemployed or those from disadvantaged backgrounds. We must offer businesses support and incentives to invest in the people who need it most and give them a chance to climb the skills ladder of opportunity – and, at the same time, help meet this country’s skills needs.”

With the skills needed for the jobs that are available also changing in light of new ways of working and new technologies, the research finds that people have a worrying lack of awareness about what training would be most beneficial: a fifth (18%) of all workers – and 25% of the unemployed – are unsure of the skills or qualifications they need in order to find a new role.

The full report, including its wider recommendations, can be accessed here:

Paragon supports Southampton-based printer with £250,000

Specialist SME lender Paragon Bank has continued its support for UK companies impacted by coronavirus, providing a £250,000 Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBILS) to Southampton-based printing firm Indigo Press.

The CBILS loan has enabled the business to trade through Covid-19 as it had to continue to pay trade suppliers, even though turnover was significantly impacted. The company is now seeing sales rise again as the economic activity picks up.

Prior to this most recent support, Paragon also helped Indigo to free up cash flow by refinancing assets, allowing the business to consolidate and re-structure debt.

So far Paragon has lent £6m to UK SMEs through CBILS, with a number of deals in the pipeline due to complete.

Tony Swift, joint managing director at Indigo Press, said: “Paragon has been incredibly supportive. The team were very fast at turning around both of our agreements and extremely professional to deal with. Having experienced many issues with the big high street banks, it was an absolute breath of fresh air.

“We are now in a completely different situation and can now concentrate on what we actually do for a living, so that we are able to guide the business out the other side.”

Amanda Wytenburg, business development manager at Paragon, said: “We are extremely glad that we can support our customers through challenges presented by the pandemic. Our strong relationship with Indigo has meant that we have been able to provide ongoing support, tailored to their needs, both prior to the coronavirus pandemic and during.”

Established in 1989 and now with a turnover of approximately £4m, Indigo Press specialises in B2 Commercial Lithographic printing for a range of clients across many sectors. The business prides itself on being a high quality, competitively priced supplier of fast turnaround litho printed materials.

Banking Competition Remedies Ltd (BCR) board update: chairman succession

Banking Competition Remedies Ltd (BCR), the independent body established to implement the £775m Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) State Aid Alternative Remedies Package, today announces the resignation of Godfrey Cromwell as executive chair and the future appointment of Richard Anderson (currently a non-executive director of BCR) as non-executive chair.

Godfrey Cromwell will be leaving BCR on 30 September, with a handover to Richard Anderson during August. Godfrey has led BCR since its set-up in April 2018 and he has decided to stand down to coincide with the completion of most of the major decisions at BCR.

  • Under Godfrey’s leadership at BCR:
  • The Incentivised Switching Scheme has doubled the SME switching rate through CASS.
  • The Capability and Innovation Fund has successfully allocated £425 million to a wide range of organisations, which are now using these funds to support the development of wider capabilities and competition in the SME banking market.

A further funding round, Pool E, has been created to redeploy some £100m of this sum after two awardees, Metro Bank and Nationwide, each returned £50m to BCR after their own internal strategic reviews indicated a change in business direction.

Godfrey Cromwell said today “We have achieved a great deal. ISS has performed far better than many expected and has recently announced plans for the next phase, taking it to its scheduled conclusion in 2021; CIF awards have been made in full across a portfolio of positive projects and Pool E is on track to allocate £100m funds by early September. Passing these milestones has been a great team effort by BCR staff, directors and our advisers as well as colleagues at HMT, RBS and participating bodies. Every deadline has been met, within budget, and we have recruited two excellent NEDs who add value to the board. All this in the teeth of once-per-generation economic, social and political challenges from Brexit and Covid-19. I am leaving BCR in very capable hands and wish them continued success.”

Richard Anderson said today “I am delighted that the board has asked me to step up to the role of non-executive chair. Godfrey has led BCR from its creation through to the present time with great enthusiasm and skill. I look forward to working with my fellow directors, the team at BCR and all of those with an interest in our work as chair over the remaining period of the ARP. CIF has been crucial in supporting the development of SME banking competitors. But these are difficult times for the SME banking market and for fintechs in general, so we know how important our role is in distributing Pool E and also in holding awardees from all Pools to account against their public commitments.”

The Pool E application and awarding process is currently in train with full details here.

Application Round One of Pool E is due to report w/c 17 August and Round Two of Pool E is due to report w/c 21 September.