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SME Liaison Panel Update

20 March 2023

Following the resignation of Antony Townsend and the FCA’s Call for Input on SME access to the Financial Ombudsman Service, the BBRS has announced today that it has brought forward the closure of its SME Liaison Panel (SMELP).  The Panel was due to close in December 2023 but will now be closed with immediate effect.

Antony Townsend, BBRS SMELP Chair said: “It is with regret that I have decided to stand down as Chair of the BBRS SME Liaison Panel.

“Despite the best efforts of fellow panel members, and of some within the BBRS, it has proved very difficult to make progress. The Panel’s views are most recently recorded on my blog on the BBRS website. I have been disappointed by some of the BBRS’s responses to the Panel’s concerns. The very low numbers of cases resolved by BBRS and the banks suggest an inflexible system, and I do not detect the necessary willingness and imagination within the existing system to resolve this. For those reasons, I think it better if the debate about how to improve matters takes place in a different forum.’

Lewis Shand Smith, BBRS Chair, said: “While I regret to hear of Antony Townsend’s resignation, on behalf of the BBRS board I would like to thank Antony for his contributions to the BBRS and acknowledge the sterling work Antony has undertaken as Chair of the Panel. We wish him the very best for the future.

“The SME Liaison Panel has played an important role in advising the BBRS and driving several initiatives. For example, the panel were a catalyst in encouraging the BBRS to conduct independent research into its case volume, which is significantly lower than was initially forecast at the time the scheme went live.”

In light of Mr Townsend’s resignation and the FCA’s Call for Input: SME access to the Financial Ombudsman Service, which launched three days ago on Friday 17 March, the BBRS has made the decision to bring forward the  SME Liaison Panel closure from December 2023. It will be closed with immediate effect.

The BBRS board will use the findings of the FCA’s review, as well as any subsequent work undertaken by the FCA, to help inform its options for the future.

The BBRS is voluntarily funded by participating banks until December 2023. To date, substantially more than £1M of financial awards have been made to SMEs as a result of BBRS intervention, across the various dispute resolution routes.