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October 2022 update from SME Liaison Panel Chair, Antony Townsend

10 October 2022

The SME liaison panel has been set up to advise the BBRS and is made up of representatives from the small business community. The panel was established, based on the BBRS’s Terms of Reference, to provide a two-way feedback loop between the SME community and the BBRS.

I’m writing with an update following our latest meeting of the SME Liaison Panel on 21 September 2022, the minutes of which can be found here.

  1. I began the meeting by sharing the news that Janine Alexander has left the panel owing to a change of role and that she no longer had the time to contribute to the Panel. The panel joined me in thanking Janine for her work and we wished her well in her new role. I will be seeking her replacement on the panel over the coming weeks.
  2. The Panel considered what rule changes it should discuss with the banks in the light of the data on complaints handled by the BBRS so far, including where there are gaps in provision between the Financial Ombudsman Service and the BBRS. To help us we were joined at the recent meeting by Caroline Barr, Chair of the Bank Liaison Panel. Caroline suggested we provide some clear examples of the sorts of cases where there is a lack of provision and where panel members would like to see changes to the rules to address the gaps. It was noted at the meeting that time is of the essence here, as the BBRS Historical Scheme closes for new case registrations on 14 February 2023 (two years after it opened). I am working with the panel to clarify our scheme rule change recommendations and will be taking these forward with the banks. (NB the BBRS has explained to us that it will remain neutral on this matter in order to preserve their independence).
  3. The BBRS reported that they were working on the part 2 to their Post Implementation Review (PIR) process. PIR forms part of the BBRS’s obligations set at launch to review its set-up and practice. The process to contract a reviewer is underway and the panel looks forward to being consulted and informed about PIR part 2 as it progresses.
  4. The panel recognises the work that the BBRS has been undertaking to promote its service, including advertising, PR work in trade publications, changes to improve accessibility on their website, and the use of diversity surveys to ensure that SME business owners of all backgrounds are being reached. The panel are working with the BBRS to provide advice on how to maintain and improve accessibility for SMEs who need to use the service.
  5. The panel was pleased to note that there have been improvements in the way the BBRS publishes case data and shares this with the panel. We also welcomed the BBRS sharing their service complaints data. The low number of cases which have gone all the way through the process, coupled with the fact that some complaints are being settled between the complainants and the banks directly, makes it hard to draw firm conclusions, but the Panel will continue to work with BBRS on this issue.
  6. There has been an ongoing discussion about how the BBRS was set up. Although there remain some concerns about that, there was a consensus that the panel should concentrate its energies on advising the BBRS on how it can provide a good service for SMEs, and what changes are required in the light of experience. Panel members agreed that the BBRS still has the potential to provide a valuable service to the small business community.