News & Updates

16 December 2020

BBRS boosted by cross-party and cross-government support at pre-launch event in Stormont

Representatives from the UK Government and Northern Ireland’s Stormont Assembly joined together to demonstrate their support for the upcoming launch of the Business Banking Resolution Service, which will resolve past and contemporary disputes between larger SMEs and their banks.

Speaking at a BBRS Stormont pre-launch briefing for Members of the Northern Irish Assembly, The Rt Hon Brandon Lewis CBE MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Pat Catney MLA, Chair of the All-Party Group on Fair Banking and Finance, and Kevin Hollinrake MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking, emphasised the important role that the BBRS will play in building trust and confidence between SMEs and their banks and in improving the climate for investment, by helping larger SMEs borrow with greater confidence.

The event was held in partnership with the APG on Fair Banking and Finance, and was moderated by Dr. Ken Bishop, Executive Director of the group. The panel also featured: Samantha Barrass, CEO of the BBRS; Roger Pollen, Head of External Affairs, Federation of Small Business Northern Ireland; and Bill Pauley, Head of the Strategic Policy and Reform Directorate, Northern Ireland Department of Finance.

Conor Murphy MLA, Finance Minister, welcomed the launch of the new resolution service:

“This project shows how a collaborative approach between banks and businesses will be of benefit during these difficult economic times. Local businesses have taken on substantial levels of debt during the pandemic and it is vital that banks work constructively with business to resolve disputes and support their recovery in the coming years. It is positive to see over £1.3bn of lending through Government-backed Covid loan schemes, and the addition of this new independent resolution service should facilitate better relationships between the business and banking sectors.”

The Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP, Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, said:

“During my time as Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, I have seen the vital importance of SMEs to the Northern Ireland economy. And the brilliance of those businesses across a wide range of sectors, be it fintech, greentech, or cyber. They are the backbone of the Northern Ireland economy, and key to future growth.

“It’s great to see the banking and finance sector coming together with representatives of the business community to develop the BBRS. The service is an important opportunity for SMEs, and can help maintain the relationships of trust that SMEs with the banks. I look forward to seeing the development of the new service as it moves forward, and hope that other financial providers will look to get involved.”

Pat Catney MLA, Chair of the Stormont All-Party Group on Fair Banking and Finance, commented:

“As the BBRS enters the final stage of its launch, I have been really pleased to see so much buy-in from across the financial and political landscape. The fact that the service has the backing of seven major banks, backing from high level politicians from across the four nations, and backing from business groups, gives me faith that the service can go a long way to help level the playing field.”

Kevin Hollinrake MP, Chair of the Westminster All-Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking, said:

“The launch of this new service is such a momentous change. For the first time businesses with a turnover of up to £10 million will have access to free dispute resolution, where before that has only been available to very small businesses.

“Now you have a situation where that playing field is much more level. Our primary role as parliamentarians is to maintain a fair and level playing field, and this means for the first time you have this level playing field between banks and businesses which is a historic moment.”

Also speaking at the event, Samantha Barrass, CEO of the BBRS, said:

“I have learnt a great deal through the experience of piloting the service. One of the most important points is that users need to trust the service. They need to feel listened to and understood. They need to have confidence in the independence, expertise and empathy of the BBRS. That is why we have put so much time into getting the framework right and recruiting the right people.

“Another important priority for the BBRS is to expand the number of member banks, expanding the number of SMEs who know that their relationship with their bank is supported by a free,  independent dispute resolution service. We also need to make sure that make that all SMEs are aware of the service. That is why events such as this one are so important, and why we will be holding one in each of the four nations.”

On 10th December 2020, the Implementation Steering Group unanimously approved the entirety of the BBRS’ legal architecture, including the rules and policies for the service. This is a major milestone for the BBRS and represents one of the final steps in its go live process.

All members are now conducting their respective governance processes on the final documentation, which they will seek to conclude as quickly as possible. The ISG will then meet for one last time in January in order to sign off the Scheme, after which the BBRS will be fully independent.

The banks supporting the scheme represent about 80% of the business banking market and it will be open to others to join in the future. The participating banks are currently:

  • Barclays
  • Clydesdale Bank (including Yorkshire Bank and Virgin Money)
  • Danske Bank
  • HSBC UK
  • Lloyds Banking Group (including Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland)
  • NatWest Group (including Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and Ulster Bank Northern Ireland)
  • Santander UK plc

The pre-launch briefing was designed to enable MLAs and their teams understand how the BBRS stands ready to help with problems faced by potentially eligible constituent SMEs.

This event follows the successful event held in Westminster last month, and the BBRS is organising similar events in Edinburgh and in Cardiff to ensure that elected representatives know how the UK-wide scheme can provide support and assistance to businesses who approach them for advice.

-Ends-

Notes to Editors

About the BBRS

The BBRS is a dispute resolution service set up to resolve disputes between eligible small and medium sized businesses and participating banks. The BBRS is being established in accordance with a voluntary commitment made by the banking and finance industry in response to the Simon Walker Review on the small business complaints landscape.

An Implementation Steering Group was established in January 2019, and is driving and overseeing the development of the service in line with the banking and finance industry’s commitment and agreed terms of reference. The seven participating banks are: Barclays, Danske Bank, HSBC UK, Lloyds Banking Group (including Lloyds Bank and Bank of Scotland), NatWest Group (including Royal Bank of Scotland, NatWest and Ulster Bank Northern Ireland), Santander UK plc, Virgin Money (including Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank). Alongside the participating banks, the Implementation Steering Group comprises many representative groups acting on behalf of small and medium sized businesses.

For more information visit the BBRS website https://thebbrs.org/.

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