Putting farmers on the front foot
This week, over 2,200 Barclays colleagues, including our network of on-the-ground Relationship Managers, will aim to meet with 20,000 SMEs across the UK to help them tackle the uncertainties of Brexit. In the second in our two-part series, we hear from one of those taking part – Barclays’ Agricultural and Agritech Manager Lizzie Asplin, who also manages a livestock farm – about Britain’s changing agricultural sector, the wealth of support Barclays has to offer, and why “there will always be a future in farming”.
“It’s about Barclays’ Business Relationship Managers going out there, getting on the front foot and visiting customers in their area. It’s an opportunity for Barclays’ agricultural team to meet customers face-to-face and really show that we’re here for them.”
Lizzie Asplin – Barclays Agricultural and Agritech Manager for the South East – is discussing the bank’s ‘On the front foot’ initiative kicking off today, which will see Barclays’ network of 1,500 Barclays Relationship Managers, including Asplin and 700 colleagues from the wider bank, visit 20,000 small businesses across the UK to offer advice and support with preparing for Brexit.
“We had an ‘On the front foot’ day this summer which was really successful. We spoke to a lot of businesses – and the agricultural team also visited livestock markets, as well as farm shows and events,” says Asplin.
From exporting produce after Brexit to predicting changes in livestock prices, she says she is looking forward to answering questions from farmers in her local area, where as well as her role with Barclays, she also manages a livestock farm with her partner.
“I’m living and breathing the same problems as my customers,” Asplin says. “When I go out and see my customers, I can appreciate what they do and build a rapport, because I understand the hard work that farming involves.”
She continues: “We’re having these discussions with farmers now to make sure they’re prepared. Yes, how things are done is changing – but there will always be a future in farming.”
Enabling businesses to grow
Asplin says the agricultural sector in the region she covers is varied. “There are lots of fruit growers towards Kent, lots of arable land towards Sussex and Hampshire, and livestock in between,” she explains.
As part of Barclays’ specialist agritech team, it’s her responsibility to help clients find solutions and identify areas for growth, in part by connecting them with startup agritech businesses.
“Agritech in the last year or so has really come to the forefront of the farming industry,” she says. “That’s why Barclays decided to launch the agritech team. We meet up with agritech startups and see how we can help them with new bank accounts and connecting them with the right people, such as our high growth and entrepreneurs team.”
Asplin also regularly meets with clients to discuss the cashflow support that Barclays has to offer. “We have the Barclays Green Loan that helps businesses improve energy on their farms, for example with solar power, and our £14bn SME lending fund which supports the financial needs of businesses that are looking to grow.”
Offering support when it’s most needed
But Barclays doesn’t just offer financial support. Asplin says her remit includes “family issues, succession, health issues, feeling isolated and financial pressure” – and that means offering more personal support as well as meeting core business needs.
“Barclays has recently put all its agricultural Relationship Managers through mental health training specific to people working in agriculture,” she says.
The specialised mental health training, which was announced earlier this year, equips Barclays colleagues with the skills to identify early warning signs of stress and mental ill health. “Sometimes it’s easier to talk to somebody not directly involved in the business – but who knows the business, the family, and the industry dynamics very well. That’s where we come in,” explains Asplin.
As well as today’s ‘front foot’ visits, Barclays is also hosting another 100 Barclays Brexit clinics across the UK throughout October and November, covering topics including how to manage cash flow and working capital, exporting goods abroad, and the importance of managing future supply chains.
So, what’s the most important advice Asplin has for British farmers as the UK prepares to withdraw from the European Union?
“Keep going, and don’t be afraid to speak to us. Barclays agriculture is here for our customers and for future customers that aren’t yet with us – and we have been since 1744.”