3rd April 2020
Government needs a common-sense approach to small business, says SME Alliance
SME Alliance, the support, knowledge sharing and lobby group, has called for the Government to take a common-sense approach to small businesses in the Covid-19 crisis to avoid them being laden down with excessive debt.
While the SME Alliance welcomes the slightly improved terms of the Coronavirus Interruption Load Scheme (CBIL), it is concerned that all it will do is push more debt onto already weakened businesses, hampering them for years to come.
It proposes an alternative scheme, with the Government either offering grants or guaranteeing overdrafts for businesses, to allow the businesses to survive through this crisis.
Said Andy Keats, director of SME Alliance: “What most businesses need is the ability to stand still for however many months it takes to go back to trading normally. They need the ability to pay outgoings for those months - either by a grant or by an overdraft. In the majority of cases, this would require between £5,000 to £50,000 a month - all of which would be ploughed back into the economy and would not laden SMEs with huge debt that might lead to problems down the road."
“The Government needs to use its common sense and do what is best for the small businesses that are the lifeblood of this country.”
10th December 2019
SME Alliance demands immediate fair compensation for all HBOS Reading victims following Sir Ross Cranston QC’s damning ruling on Lloyds’ scheme
SME Alliance, the support, knowledge sharing and lobby group, has called on Lloyds Banking Group to immediately offer fair compensation for all HBOS Reading victims after the bank has agreed to a review of all the cases following the criticism of its resolution scheme by Sir Ross Cranston QC.
Sir Ross was appointed by Lloyds to review the compensation scheme launched after six people, including two former HBOS bankers, were convicted of fraud in January 2017. At the time Lloyds CEO said António Horta-Osório: “We are absolutely determined that victims of the crimes committed at HBOS Reading are fairly, swiftly and appropriately compensated.”
However, many victims found the scheme, run by Lloyds’ appointee Professor Russel Griggs, to be anything but. A report by Jonathan Laidlaw QC, commissioned by SME Alliance, found the Griggs process to be “procedurally defective and “unfair” and its methodology and guiding principles “flawed and appear partial to LBG’s interests”.
Sir Ross agreed with these findings, saying the review was “neither fair nor reasonable” and called for a review of all compensation payments, and for Lloyds to allow victims to see its documentation. Lloyds has accepted this.
Nikki Turner, outgoing director of SME Alliance, said: “While we welcome Sir Ross’s
conclusions, and the commitment by Lloyds to review the cases again, we are concerned about how long this might take. It is nearly three years since the guilty verdicts were handed down, and a decade and a half since many of the frauds took place. Victims are suffering real hardship, many lost their businesses, homes and – in some cases – families. They need fair restitution now.
“Lloyds, and António Horta-Osório in particular, might want to reflect on whether they have lived up to the promises they made nearly three years ago. It is important to note that the ‘distress and inconvenience’ payments from the bank were ones made without admitting any culpability or liability, and were only made on the condition of victims accepting onerous non-disclosure clauses and dropping any further claims.
“The bank also needs to open up the compensation process to those it has refused to help, and to those who may have opted out because of what Sir Ross describes as the ‘opacity’ of the scheme. This all needs to be actioned rapidly, fairly and transparently.
“We are grateful to Sir Ross and his team for their hard work, thoroughness and fairness. We also thank the FCA for pressurising Lloyds to finally appoint an independent arbiter.”
4th November 2019
Nikki Turner to step down as SME Alliance director
Nikki Turner, director of SME Alliance, has announced she is stepping down after five years leading the support, knowledge sharing and lobby group. She intends to leave at the end of the year having helped to oversee the successful creation of the Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS), which aims to give a mechanism for past, current and future disputes between business owners and banks to be settled without having to go to court.
SME Alliance was created to help victims of bank abuse and misconduct including the HBOS Reading scandal, which brought down the business run by Mrs Turner and her husband Paul, and has grown to give much needed support to those impacted by the unscrupulous and often illegal actions of many of the UK’s leading banks and their advisors. One of the key objectives was to find a way that businesses can gain compensation for bad behaviour by banks without the need for expensive and lengthy legal proceedings, something it is hoped that last Friday’s launch of the BBRS will deliver.
Mrs Turner has informed members of SME Alliance of her decision. Nick Gould, SME Alliance chair, is also retiring after four years in the role. Andy Keats, a director of SME Alliance, will take over in the lead role. New directors, and a new chair, will be announced shortly.
Nikki Turner said: “We have achieved a great deal and been able to help many SMEs, not least by showing them they are not alone in their fight against the banks. We have had tremendous support from our members, the board and our chair, Nick Gould, who has given many hundreds of hours of his time on a pro-bono basis.
“I hope the BBRS will be a major step forward in rebuilding an equitable relationship between the banks and the SMEs which are the lifeblood of the British economy. While there is always more to do, I feel that now is the time to step down to concentrate on rebuilding our business and spending time with my grandchildren.
“To echo comments made by Nick Gould, SME Alliance should not need to exist, but it does, and it needs new people with fresh ideas to take it forward and keep holding the banks to account.”
Nick Gould, outgoing SME Alliance chair, said: “No-one can overestimate the amount of time, dedication and knowledge that Nikki has brought to the helping SMEs fight for their rights and livelihoods. The banks are so powerful and have all the cards in their hands when fighting SMEs, but through the hard work of Nikki and her family, SME Alliance has been able to redress the balance to some extent.”
One of Mrs Turner’s final actions as SME Alliance director will be to review the report by former high court judge, Sir Ross Cranston, into the compensation scheme put in place by Lloyds Banking Group for victims of HBOS Reading.
In a report commissioned by SME Alliance, Jonathan Laidlaw QC found that the Review, led by Professor Russel Griggs, is “procedurally defective” and “unfair” and its methodology and guiding principles are “flawed and appear partial to LBG’s interests”. Mrs Turner is confident that Sir Ross will take account of those conclusions and hopes he will recommend that Lloyds revisits the outcomes of the Griggs review to deliver a more suitable outcome for all the victims.
1st November 2019
SME Alliance demands banking resolution scheme has fair remit
SME Alliance, the support, knowledge sharing and lobby group, has called on the Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS) not to prejudge which businesses are eligible for compensation after concerns were raised about terms on the BBRS website.
The BBRS was launched today to “to resolve disputes between eligible small and medium sized businesses and participating banks” without having to go to court.
SME Alliance directors, Nikki Turner and Andy Keats, along with SME Alliance member, Derek Carlisle, dedicated many hours to help create the BBRS. They welcome the launch, and are encouraging SME Alliance members to sign up for the pilot scheme that will test the process over the next few months.
However, Mrs Turner and Mr Keats have serious concerns about the section of the BBRS website about which SMEs are eligible for the scheme, notably the part that says: “We will be unable to consider complaints for which customers have already been included within the scope of reviews we recognise to be independent, once these reviews have been confirmed.”
SME Alliance will be meeting the BBRS early next week to clarify which that means, as the BBRS has also stated it will not finally determine eligibility issues until it has run its live pilot.
Said Nikki Turner: “The BBRS has to be fair, transparent and consistent, yet its policies on eligibility are confusing and contradictory. There is no way you could consider compensation schemes run by the banks as ‘independent’. Unless the BBRS sort out this eligibility issue, we face the prospect of the vast majority of historical claims by SMEs being excluded, which would make the whole process a farce.”
Mrs Turner added that when the then Chancellor Philip Hammond proposed the BBRS, he said it should resolve “a meaningful number of cases”. “Excluding a large number of SMEs would turn this from meaningful into a poorly executed PR exercise,” Mrs Turner added. “Our members deserve fair treatment, and we will fight to achieve this.”
About SME Alliance
SME Alliance was formed in September 2014 to support SMEs “battling against fraud, corruption and misconduct in the financial sector” and to lobby for the fair treatment of businesses by their banks and advisors.
About the BBRS
The BBRS is a non-profit organisation set up to resolve disputes between eligible small and medium sized businesses and participating banks. We will deliver an accessible and transparent service, giving eligible businesses the opportunity to have their complaint heard and independently reviewed. We will make decisions based on what is fair and reasonable in the circumstances and seek to inspire confidence through the consistency of our approach.
To register for the live pilot go to https://thebbrs.org/register-your-interest/
28th October 2019
Today SME Alliance chairman Nick Gould announced that he is stepping down after four years in the role. He receives the heartfelt thanks of the membership. He made this statement:
‘As an organisation SME Alliance, the support, knowledge sharing and lobby group, should not need to exist. It does so primarily because of the appalling actions and inactions of certain immoral and unethical and quite possibly corrupt bankers, covering a period of more than 15 years and some of their equally immoral and unethical advisors. All of these people have been sheltered by a legal and financial services regime which favours and protects those with near unlimited power and money.
‘The regulators and all relevant Ministers and Shadow Ministers (and too many constituency MPs as well) have failed almost completely to help those whose lives and businesses were destroyed by those bankers. On the other hand, a select group of brave people were willing to speak truth to power, notably Anthony Stansfeld, Thames Valley Police Commissioner, and Kevin Hollinrake MP, who deserve thanks from all of us.
‘I believe it important to say that a large number of the members of SME Alliance and many others, whether or not their claims have been “settled”, are still suffering and massively so. That suffering might be emotional, or through poor health, or financial concerns, or a combination of all of these. The impact of that suffering has been passed down to generations of families and continues to do so. One victim of RBS has been fighting his case for more than 20 years. This is completely unacceptable. RBS is a taxpayer owned bank. If RBS stakeholders actually knew what is apparently being done in their names, I doubt if they’d be cheering. The behaviour of HBOS and then its 2009 acquirer, Lloyds Banking Group, Lloyds’ various chairmen and CEOs, its board of directors and its senior executives over the last decade, so far as the continuing mis-treatment of the HBOS Reading fraud victims are concerned is despicable and puts any idea of corporate governance and similar to shame. For a few people, it is already too late.
‘That it is left to a very small group of people to attempt resolution of these and hundreds of other cases, shows the entire system of financial laws and regulation in this area is not fit for purpose. Although no one is above the law, in some of these cases it is a fairly close thing, so far as some senior bankers and some of their advisors are concerned. Probably the saddest thing (apart from the real people and real life nightmare stories, of which there are far too many), is the fact it is almost certain something like this will happen again very soon.
‘As I have said in letters, emails and reports to many people over the last few months:
“As I am sure you are aware, people are sick, are dying, have died– time is precious.” That sentence and the pain it contains, remains entirely true.’
Sunday 7th July 2019
SME warning it will not support banking Dispute Resolution Scheme that excludes majority of its members
SME Alliance would like to comment on the reporting on the terms of the Dispute Resolution Scheme (DRS), which aims to create a mechanism for businesses mistreated by banks in the scheme to obtain redress without recourse to legal action.
SME Alliance would like to make it clear:
Nikki Turner, director of SME Alliance, says: “Clearly we will not be able to support a scheme that excludes the majority of our members and we are determined to continue to make sure any final scheme is beneficial and available to as many SMEs as possible. We feel positive progress is being made with all stakeholders but there is still a long way to go.”
Friday 21st June 2019
SME Alliance slams FCA fine over HBOS Reading as "justice denied"
Please find below the reaction to the FCA’s decision to fine Lloyds Banking Group subsidiary Bank of Scotland £45 million for failures over the HBOS Reading scandal, Nikki Turner on behalf of SME Alliance, said:
“Justice delayed is justice denied, so for victims who lost their businesses, livelihoods and, in some cases families, because of the craven, unrestricted behaviour of HBOS bankers, action coming over a decade after the event is the ultimate insult. The only bankers banned are those who’d never work in the industry again, while their bosses get off scott free and the bank is fined what is little more than small change.
“It is also insulting that Lloyds receives a discount for being a ‘good boy’. How does this help the victims in any way. We demand that the £45 million fine is put into a fund to help those who have suffered, many of whom have been denied compensation, or forced into accepting derisory pay-outs, by Lloyds.
“When is the FCA going to investigate, or even acknowledge, the cover up by HBOS senior executives, the lies and the obstruction going right to the top of the bank? When are they going to show they are on the side of the customer rather than the banker?”