As many of you know (because you were there), the second meeting of SME Alliance was a huge success. For those members who couldn't make it and for other interested parties, here's a brief round up of how it went and the issues raised.
First, we'd like to thank our two speakers – Dave Glynn and Richard Elsner. Dave as an ex investment banker, gave us a real insight into what goes on in some areas of the banking world. Sadly, after listening to him, I think we all felt things really are as bad as we think. So, no immediate light at the end of that tunnel but it was incredibly positive to realise there are bankers out there who want change as badly as SMEs do and that they are prepared to speak out. Dave's talk was fascinating and having him on board is a big plus.
Richard Elsner flew in from Germany specifically for the meeting and was very informative about the potential dangers of letting the TTIP agreement go ahead. Richard travels all over Europe speaking to SME groups and organisations pointing out how damaging this agreement will be to SMEs and how we must take action to make our concerns known at the highest levels of Government. He cited an organisation of German SMEs who have done exactly that and this has resulted in the 'controversial' new head of the EU, Jean-Claude Juncker, calling for more transparency. If we have any members who are knowledgeable about TTIP and who would like to continue a dialogue with Richard on behalf of SME Alliance, please get in contact.
Having said that, we've come away with a host of things to progress after the meeting and we all realise we're still at the beginning and have a long way to go. One really good initiative which we hope to put in place very soon, is the SME Alliance advisers platform. Many of the members, having faced their own problems as SME owners and in particular with banking and regulatory issues, have now gone on to form companies who advise SMEs. Some were already in the financial sector and could see the problems and some have just developed a vast amount of knowledge from their own experiences. So the plan is, these people will all get together to pool information that will help all of us. This will hopefully be in place before our next meeting, where we will have a much longer session to include a 'clinic' where members can talk to advisers.
Jon, Nick, Paul and I have a meeting next Monday with the SRA on behalf of SME Alliance. As we said at the meeting, if anyone has issues to raise that are relevant, please let us know. Steve Middleton raised one very serious issue: the many and varied examples of crime or misconduct in the financial sector have only really come to the forefront in recent years. Many of the issues are to do with complex, financial products and require very specific legal knowledge and advice. Unfortunately some legal firms are jumping in to give that advice without the appropriate level of expertise and this is causing huge problems. If anyone else has questions you would like us to ask, please contact email@example.com
I would just like to make one point about that – Nick Gould has done a fantastic job of opening doors for us and I know many of the people or organisations we will be meeting are not always held in the highest esteem by the members – yes FCA, we're not your biggest fans. However, if we are going to get a voice, we need people to listen and they won't listen or even open the doors if we only want to attack. Which isn't to say we want to get pally, pally with the authorities but we do want to talk very seriously while very civilly and always based on the very level headed concerns of our members, so our points are taken on board. As we get more members it will be harder to ignore our points but we'd like to think people will actually want to talk to us – even if we raise some contentious issues.
Joel has suggested we should have our own newspaper – I'm assured by Laura this isn't hard to do and I'm guessing she's right because she has one for her own work. So watch this space.
The next meeting is planned to take place at the beginning of January and will be in Birmingham. We don't have a date or venue yet but will keep you posted. Great to see more ladies at this meeting – I hope you'll come to the next one.
More information from the meeting will be in the 1st newsletter – hopefully by the end of this week and I'll just finish by thanking Jon Welsby for Chairing the meeting; Nick Gould for setting up the Company and making some great contacts; to everyone who attended – some came from the other end of the Country and; most of all to James Fahey, our incredibly gracious and generous host.