Live Pilot Interim Findings report

New complaint resolution service pilot prompts ‘deep rethink’ on case handling  – Study flags changes ahead for small businesses

New complaint resolution service pilot prompts ‘deep rethink’ on case handling  – Study flags changes ahead for small businesses

Taking the stress and acrimony out of disputes between banks and their small business customers must be at the heart of a deep rethink of the whole system of managing SME complaints against their banks, according to new findings from an independent dispute resolution body.

Published today are the interim findings of the Business Banking Resolution Service’s study of how a new, more supportive approach to settling disagreements between SMEs and banking service providers could work.

A ‘Live Pilot’, set up at the end of last year, has taken on board over 40 complaints by SME customers against their banks, some arising in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis or even further back, others more recent.

The purpose of the Live Pilot has been to inform a wholly new approach to dispute resolution. It is being conducted by the independent Business Banking Resolution Service, which is being set up by seven participating banks and a group of key stakeholders as equal partners. This comes after the 2018 Walker Review of unresolved SME disputes with their banks, and UK Finance’s response to that.

To read and download the full BBRS Live Pilot Interim Findings report please click here.

Commenting on the findings, Lewis Shand Smith, the BBRS’ independent Chair, said:

“It has never been more important for British businesses to get fair treatment from their banks. Doing so will, in turn, safeguard the reputation of the sector. The BBRS will play a vital role in making sure this happens.

“In establishing our service, we have recognised the need for a deep rethink of the way disputes between SMEs and their banks are handled. The Live Pilot is adopting a human and flexible approach, as an alternative to the stress and cost of seeking to resolve complaints through the courts.

“The Live Pilot is a significant milestone on the journey to getting the BBRS fully operational for the benefit of all of its stakeholders. We will continue to learn from the Live Pilot as we move towards implementation this year.”

Alexandra Marks, Chief Adjudicator at the BBRS, added:

“We have been discovering a lot about some difficult and often distressing cases, and the importance of handling these sensitively as well as fairly. When dealing with disputes it is not possible to please everyone all of the time, but our ambition as an independent organisation is to reach fair and reasonable outcomes which bring closure to both parties.

“The commitment of our customers participating in the pilot phase has been commendable, as is the patience of those still waiting for their cases to be started. The progress of the service to date has been made possible by the far-sightedness and support of the participating banks and our wider stakeholder group. I am looking forward to the launch of the full service later this year.”