Ian Rand: backing British businesses during coronavirus
“If you’re a great business in 2019, you will still be a great business in 2021,” said Ian Rand, CEO of Barclays Business Banking, speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live to address the concerns of British companies struggling with the impact of coronavirus (Covid-19). “Our job as a bank is support businesses through any short-term cash-flow issues.”
In what he described as an “incredibly fast-moving situation where thousands of businesses across the country are facing massive reductions in income and now the impact of school closures”, Rand told Radio 5 Live’s Wake Up to Money programme about the support Barclays can provide even before the introduction of the UK government’s Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme, which is due to launch next week.
Delivered by the British Business Bank, the scheme will primarily support small and medium sized businesses (SMEs) to access bank lending and overdrafts. The government will provide lenders with a guarantee of 80% on each loan, subject to a per-lender cap on claims, to give lenders further confidence in continuing to provide finance to SMEs. The government will not charge businesses or banks for this guarantee, and the scheme will support loans up to £5m in value.
But Rand hopes that businesses who need access to finance will not wait for the implementation of that scheme – expected next week. Speaking on Thursday morning, he said: “I think the critical message is that as well as the schemes that are coming from the government, there is funding available right now,” he said. “We currently have a £14 billion fund out there ready to support businesses, so don’t wait for further announcements about funds. If you need to talk to your bank about financing, then please pick up the phone and engage right now.”
The package of measures announced by the Chancellor is incredibly welcome, and the job of the banks right now is to work with the government to get those ready as soon as possible
CEO Business Banking, Barclays
Rand also told the BBC that over 300,000 businesses who bank with Barclays already have pre-assessed lending limits available to them on the bank’s app and website and can access cash instantly.
With high levels of traffic to Barclays’ dedicated coronavirus helpline, Rand suggested checking online first but said staff are being redeployed “so we can get those calls answered as fast as we can. We are expecting more calls when the schemes are announced and want to be ready to take those enquiries.”
In a Wednesday Facebook Live session about coronavirus-based supply chain uncertainty for SMEs, Rand emphasised that “the only job we have right now is to help businesses get through this crisis. That is our job.
“The package of measures announced by the Chancellor is incredibly welcome, and the job of the banks right now is to work with the government to get those ready and out of the door as soon as possible.”
“We’ve seen hundreds of customers reach out already,” he added, “looking to take advantage of lending, working capital and the capital repayment holidays that we’ve offered. I would encourage any business who is concerned to reach out and talk to your bank – engage early because there is a lot that we can do even before the grants and the lending schemes come online.”
As well as a dedicated helpline for business customers affected by coronavirus, Barclays’ broader support package currently includes 12-month capital repayment holidays on existing loans over £25,000, increased new overdrafts and working capital solutions, and an existing £14bn lending fund launched in 2019 to help SMEs build resilience in uncertain times.
Rand says that Barclays is proactively reaching out to businesses, but also urged clients to “talk to your bank fast and early” so they can help find sources of funding and also benefit from Barclays’ knowledge, insights and convening power: “Running a business, particularly a small business, can be lonely,” he said, “and you focus on yourself and your problems without always recognising your options.”
The Facebook Live session also dealt with the fallout for businesses hit by coronavirus’s impact on China, and included contributions from Torsten Weller of the China-Britain Business Council and Marco Forgione, Director General of the Institute of Export and International Trade. Weller stated that China is ahead of the process and businesses can learn from what has already happened there, while Forgione stressed the importance of businesses cutting through bureaucracy to access funding through tools like asset and invoice financing.
The only job we have right now is to help businesses get through this crisis. That is our job
CEO Business Banking, Barclays
Rand emphasised that “nobody should believe that there is no financing available until this loan scheme goes live. We are here and ready to lend to support businesses. We’ve been here a long time, we’ve been through crises before – we know how to do this, we know how to look at a business and say ‘if you were a good business last year, you’ll be a good business next year, and we can support you through a tough 2020.’
“Financial support is critical when businesses have real bills without income coming in, but once we get over that hump with the aid of all the packages the government have announced, it’s also about how we help businesses build resilience and efficiency for the longer term, because this won’t be over in a couple of months.”