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Gloucestershire Business News

What became of the friendly neighbourhood bank manager? Richard Neale of OPS-BOX

By Richard Neale, director of OPS-BOX 

Remember the days of the friendly, local bank manager - the pillar of the business community who would greet his business clients and take them out for a glass of Merlot at Christmas?

They knew you and your business, and you could call your bank manager for advice or support on general business or financial issues - they were the sounding board and first port of call for advice and support for many businesses.

But as the high street banks have made the move to centralised relationship managers - the personalised service of old is no more.

According to new research from card issuing platform Marqeta, an overwhelming number of SMEs are fed up with the level of service they get from their business banking. The research reveals that 84 per cent of business owners are frustrated with the performance of their bank.

But with many businesses struggling to cope with the effects of the pandemic, the need for good business and financial support and advice for the SME community has never been greater.

Filling the gap

The Banks have arguably seen more challenges to their business model in the past few years than ever before.

Technology has been behind this, as newly emerging banks have been able to quickly scale up, become licensed and offer their clients a smooth, internet based self-serve model without the legacy of old school banking holding them back.

These new, slick outfits don't need expensive High Street premises and huge staff numbers for back-office processing. Ironically many of them use High Street banks for money transmission and cheque clearance, but they have been able to create a compelling offer at a time when client habits and their needs have changed hugely.

The main High Street's banks response to this has been to reduce costs to finance their own need to change and remain relevant in the 21st Century. This has largely manifested itself in regular and significant staff culls and closure of many branches up and down the country.

The by-product of this in the commercial world has seen Banks increase the entry level at which they will provide a face-to-face support.

Their focus understandably has shifted to provide regular support to larger businesses who are more profitable to them. The management of relationships face to face often now starts at £2m turnover or even higher. Smaller businesses are directed to a self-service model, which is fine for some, but certainly not all.

The support model to these smaller businesses means that teams of remote Relationship Managers in "Centres" are responsible for many thousands of clients, and forming a relationship is impossible. It has sadly become banking by numbers at lower volumes.

So, where can businesses turn to for advice and support?

There are a plethora of free services and associations, all designed to help and support small businesses.

The Local Enterprise Partnership (LEPs) have a network of 38 Growth Hubs across the country, offering access to a business support advisor helpline, as well as workshops and courses to help with all aspects of running a business.

The Federation of Small Business (FSB) and Enterprise Nation also offer small business support, advice and financial expertise.

OPS-BOX has always believed that smaller businesses deserve a similar level of business support to larger corporate enterprises. They are the businesses of the present and the future, and most do not have a board of directors or other advisors to call on.

We are also determined at OPS-BOX to ensure that business clients have access to finance. The lending landscape has arguably never been so uncertain, and with the High Street Banks going through significant changes and challenges themselves, it is vital that businesses have an alternative route for financial support.

Now FCA approved, at OPS-BOX we can source commercial lending from a wide and diverse panel of funders to ensure that businesses can access the right financial support they need.

Enterprise-level support for the smaller business

There are a range of options available if you choose to work with a trusted partner - business mentors, coaches or boardroom advisors are all there to advise you on your business path.

However, at OPS-BOX, we work with you side by side - we're not afraid to roll up our sleeves and get our hands dirty as we help you operationalise in real time. In fact, we prefer to work side by side with management teams and employees. We find that it's the best way to get to know you and them, and to really understand what makes your business tick - and what it needs to do to reach greater heights.

Our Business Partner service offers a structured minuted monthly meeting where we act as a sounding board working through key actions, plans and objectives for the business, as well as regular support via phone and email.

Business Partner was created with the 'forgotten' smaller business in mind - using our extensive experience to bring enterprise-level help, advice and support to the SME world.

Richard Neale is director and co-founder of OPS-BOX. He has more than 35 years' experience in the financial sector working for Lloyds Banking Group, fulfilling roles as a relationship director, business development director and managing commercial banking teams.

If you would benefit from working with OPS-BOX as a business partner, get in touch today and find out how we can support your business to be the success you want it to be.

For more information, you can call us on 07759 407064 or 07432 557966, or email

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