SME Brexit clinics: "SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK"
Barclays has launched a nationwide programme of ‘Brexit clinics’ to help British businesses navigate the uncertainty surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union.
Over 100 specialist Brexit clinics aimed at small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are being held across the country, offering practical expertise from the bank’s network of relationship managers and industry specialists on topics including food exports, cashflow, trade, labour, fraud and supply chain management.
Speaking at one of the first clinics in London last week, Katherine Morgan, Head of London SME at Barclays Business Banking, said: “We know that SMEs are the lifeblood of the UK. There are about 5.7 million businesses like yourselves in the UK – and together you’re generating about 50% of UK GDP. So, we really believe in your businesses and we want to support you.”
Titled ‘Building business resilience Brexit and beyond’, the clinics will be hosted at Barclays branches and Eagle Labs throughout the UK. They will draw on the specialist industry knowledge of the bank’s network of 1,500 Relationship Managers – and provide an opportunity for business owners to share thoughts on tackling common issues.
Aleandro Brown, Founder of FoodFusion95 – who was trained by Michelin-starred chefs and worked for Gordon Ramsay – attended one of the first clinics. Describing it as “very informative”, he said: “Everyone’s on edge about the future, but Barclays gives us reassurance that they’ll be here whichever way the deal goes.”
Another attendee, Godwin Ekoriko, Founder of Furaha, an app offering bookings for hairdressers and makeup artists, said: “We’re thinking all the time about how the political and economic situation will affect our business. Having events like these builds on our relationship with the bank – it’s an added value for businesses.”
Preparing for Brexit and beyond
Asked at a clinic in Mayfair, central London, how Brexit was impacting their businesses, attendees focused mainly on the difficulty of making long-term decisions, amid a continued lack of clarity surrounding the UK’s position.
Addressing this, Ian Workman, MD for SME Business Banking, shared an example of a paper straw manufacturer he met recently – a story he hoped would offer some insights for those present.
“He was concerned that his supplier could get held up at Dover and therefore impact his supply chain,” said Workman. “He’s taken action to stockpile around two weeks-worth of stock – and agreed terms with his supplier and his customers that protects him should the currency move by more than 10%, therefore protecting his profit margin.”
Also at the event was Will Hobbs, Chief Investment Officer at Barclays Investment Solutions. Moving the discussion beyond the current political climate, he stirred laughter from the audience: “I’m actually going to do something totally different, I’m not going to talk about Brexit.
“I’m going to talk about why the long history of growth should give us a cause for optimism in the UK.”
Discussing two theories about the history of growth – the change in the nature of innovation and the change in the institutional context – Hobbs said: “The UK still has world-envied institutions. Generally, this is a very happy place to invest.
“The underlying trend in economic growth is reasonably healthy. That should mean that we don’t want to get too pessimistic about the UK economy just yet.”
Backing UK businesses
Katherine Morgan said Barclays has a long history of supporting UK businesses through times of change and uncertainty – and will continue to do so now.
She said: “Our job is to help our businesses and our customers thrive – and through that, help the wider society thrive. Being out there and talking to our clients in times of difficulty is probably one of the most important things we can do.”
Workman agreed, explaining the bank’s unique position: “Barclays has one million SME customers in the UK – and we have more managers in branches and in local communities than any other bank. We’re there for our customers – and, with this programme of events, we can help.”