Alpesh-Lloyds_A4 Temp 16/05/2011 14:55 Page 41
Q: What about the criticism that banks are not lending to businesses? This doesn't make sense given that banks can't make money? Lloyds recognises that Small and Medium sized Enterprises (SMEs) will play a vital role in returning the UK to good economic health. For that reason, we are absolutely determined to support customers, who have viable business plans, and wish to borrow. We continue to approve 8 out of every 10 lending applications, which is consistent with our long term trend. More importantly, and something I am particularly proud about, Lloyds' stock of lending to SMEs has actually increased in each of the past 4 years and importantly, continued to do so over the past 12 months (despite the market contracting as a whole!). I see customers everyday and would love to share their stories of support and commitment with you. It's fascinating that no one seems to want to interview the 8 customers we say ''yes'' to, only the 2 that merited a ''no''! Q: Since the onset of the credit crisis do you think it has got harder for businesses to open business accounts and access finance? Is it regulations and red tape, or are banks chasing fewer and fewer lucrative clients? I genuinely don't accept that it is harder to open a business account. Indeed, Lloyds has seen a record number of start-up businesses open accounts with us in the first quarter of 2011 (32,000 businesses). We are committed to helping at least 300,000 businesses start up in the 3 years leading up to December 2012 and are significantly ahead of that plan. We've also made it easier for customers to open a business bank account by training 2,500 retail branch staff nationwide to open business accounts and support the needs of start ups. In terms of accessing finance - and in contrast to many other banks - local lending discretion is an important part of our service and our local managers have the authority to agree loans up to ÂŁ500,000. Q: Our readers are the lucrative Asian community in the UK and many will be your clients - but aren't there too many banks chasing too few such clients? I cannot speak for the other banks, but as far as Lloyds Banking Group are concerned, we totally appreciate the value that the Asian Business community adds to the UK economy. Understanding diversity is key for any business and, with the impact of the emerging markets on the global stage, it is key that we have products and services that make banking more accessible to all our diverse customers.
We are proud to say that we have sponsored over 30 National Awards / Events to recognise inspirational leaders from the Asian community. The likes of the Asian Women of Achievement Awards which we have been sponsoring now for 7 years and The Asian Awards are two such opportunities for us at Lloyds Banking Group to help demonstrate our commitment to diversity and at the same time give us a great platform to network and bring businesses together from all sectors.
The feedback that I receive suggests that the competitive environment is a good one for this customer set. Q: Why are more bankers not defending themselves? Let me answer that from the Lloyds' perspective. Our priority must first be to do the right thing to support customers that have sustainable operating models - and we are doing that. Indeed, that is not my judgement; it's the view of our customers! Just last week Lloyds Banking Group won an award for being the UK's 'best bank' and who awarded us that? The customers themselves! It was the result of the largest customer survey of UK Financial Directors of its kind and it cut across all sectors and geographies. Interestingly, some press derided it, without ever acknowledging that it was the voice of the customer... how does one ''defend'' against that? Q: If you had to say something in defence of the bankers - what would it be? What's good for our customers is good for us. The banks that will emerge from the financial crisis in best shape will be the ones that do the best job for customers and have put themselves on a sound, sustainable financial footing. Our task is to explain to people what we are doing to give customers the best products and services we possibly can.
Asian Voice & Gujarat Samachar - 2011
Finance Banking Insurance (FBI)