The 3rd meeting of SME Alliance, held at the St Philips Chambers in Birmingham last Tuesday was another huge success. The weather, various bugs and viruses meant some people couldn't make it but we're a tough lot and many people did!
Many thanks to our speaker - very talented Ian Fraser, author of Shredded. I won't say all our members already know Ian but certainly they all know of him as he has, without doubt, led the way in shining a light on how our financial institutions have been dramatically exploiting SMEs over the last 10 years or longer. So it was a fascinating talk and even those of us who have spent years investigating financial crime, still got some real eye openers from Ian and some quite comical. For example, Ian pointed out RBS has a customer Charter – here is the updated version of it:
As many of us often say (so often I'm giving it a hastag), #youcouldn'tmakeitup! Ian pointed us in the direction of so much lunacy from RBS and read some brilliant extracts from his book. If you only ever read one book on the outrageous behaviour of banks and how they have been able to get away with it, read Shredded!
I'm not going to say any more about Ian's speech as I hope he'll give another one later in the year. Not least because I know so many people were disappointed to have missed it.
One of the issues raised at the meeting was the incredible gap in regulatory bodies when it comes to SMEs. On the one hand the FCA insist they don't deal with individual cases (actually they do all the time) and on the other hand the FOS are so limited in what compensation they can award, their remit is completely ineffectual for SMEs.
There was some debate on who we should approach to remedy this situation and yet again there was resistance from some to opening doors with those seen as the establishment. But the overall consensus remains we must try and open doors with as many people as possible and we must do our best to overcome the 'them and us' situation. As our common sense lawyer always reminds us, we have to break down the Silos. So that is what we are going to do and a letter will be going to Andrea Leadsome and Vince Cable pointing out we cannot forge positive relationships or have useful mediation, if no regulatory body represents us. Will keep all updated.
Mel Loades has put together a brilliant team of advisers who had a morning meeting at the same venue to see how they (all members of SME Alliance) can best share information for the benefit of the membership. Many of these advisers have had considerable success helping SMEs overcome banking issues. Collectively they will be a powerful force and, given the team has experienced financial advisers and lawyers on board, this will be a very important resource for SME Alliance.
On the subject of SME Alliance itself, we were all in agreement with Clive May's comment at the meeting that, even although we are not all about banking, we do need to chalk up a positive result. How brilliant then that just two days later, Clive, with the help of his MP, David Hanson and Andy Keats (SME Alliance member and adviser) have achieved exactly that!
Today James Hurley published an article in the Times confirming Clive has won his battle with RBS over EFG loans and, as a direct result of his tenacity and persistence, RBS have agreed they miss-sold many EFG loans. A separate blog will be going up in the news section about this – but what a great start to 2015 for SME Alliance!
We discussed our next meeting which will be in London, probably at the beginning of March. The subject will be 'positive banking and funding.' That will be a first for lots of our members – the positive side of banking! But it had to come sooner or later. Some banks and funders are, fortunately, happy to lend to SMEs without a hidden agenda and we want to make sure our members know some of the best options.
We'd like to thank our hosts for last Tuesday, Andrew Maguire and Justin Luckman of St Philips Chambers, Birmingham. And I have to say, never having been to Birmingham before (I've been to the NEC but never into Birmingham city) and contrary to what a certain Fox News journalist had to say, I thought Birmingham was a very vibrant city. The venue we had was spectacular, the people were very friendly and I will definitely be going back.
I will try and get dates for the next meeting sorted out next week so everyone has advanced warning.
All our members are encouraged to contribute to the SME Alliance weekly blog.