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Foreword by Lewis Shand Smith

Dear friends and colleagues,

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 Business Banking Resolution Service will play a vital role in making sure this happens.

The BBRS will be a new type of dispute resolution service: created by its stakeholders to meet the needs of those larger small business customers, who may to date have struggled to get redress when things have gone wrong with their banks.

Designing the service has been an enormous undertaking. We have benefitted from the support of a wide range of stakeholders, the participating banks, SMEs, Government and regulators.

Most of all, we have had critical input from customers, including those who are participating in our Live Pilot. In early May, we published interim findings from the Pilot. It is giving us valuable insights into how to handle cases fairly, how to promote resolution and, critically, how to ensure this is underpinned by a set of rules, which commands wide confidence.

As we move to finalise the service for launch, we need to recognise that it will emerge in a changed world. The service’s origins were in the financial crisis, the Walker Review and UK Finance’s welcome response to the review.

We know now that the BBRS’ future will lie in the context of the severe economic aftershocks of the pandemic crisis. It is possible that, with the huge increase in loans applied for and arranged, there will be a rise in complaints against banks.

In mid-May we published a second report on the impact of the covid-19 loans on business banking dispute resolution, which focused on businesses’ experiences with the Government’s financial aid schemes and the disruption caused by the virus and what consequences might flow from them. In particular, it looked at those schemes which will fall within the BBRS’ scope (the service will not be available to those who took out Bounce Back Loans). We found that, while Government-backed loan schemes have provided a lifeline, those who have accessed them need to recognise that these are loans, not grants, if we are to avoid the risk of storing up problems for the future. The BBRS will not have access to a ‘magic wand’ to wish away unpaid loans.

The BBRS is ideally placed to consider complaints – where they are within our scope – that cannot be resolved by participating banks themselves.

In preparing to go live, we want to be sure to take full account of the views of interested stakeholders, SMEs, and individuals too. We recognise that our service will need to be the subject of continuous review and improving and listening widely to people’s experiences is part and parcel of that. This consultation is central to that process.

We have kept the format deliberately simple, for ease of response. Please email if you require any assistance in responding, for example, a braille, large-print or other language version of the consultation. We look forward to hearing from you by the 15 July 2020. Your participation will be enormously valuable and will help support our important mission.