SME Alliance rejects disappointing and self-serving Walker report.
SME Alliance, which supports business people in their disputes with banks, has rejected the main conclusions of the report by Simon Walker on behalf of the finance industry’s trade body into ways SMEs can challenge banks without going to court.
Mr Walker’s conclusions – which include strengthening the role of the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) and a voluntary ombudsman service for larger businesses – fall well short of the demands by the SME Alliance, leading MPs and other interested parties for an independent tribunal to deal with disputes between businesses and their banks.
Said Nikki Tuner, director of SME Alliance: “This report is off the mark and out of sync with what businesses want and need. Nothing short of a robust process will convince the millions of ordinary business people they are protected by the law. The SME sector has been ravaged by banks for years and neither the Financial Conduct Authority (or its predecessor body) nor the FOS have done much to stop this. The trust has gone, as has access to justice. A tribunal would re-establish this.”
The report was commission by UK Finance, the representative body for the finance industry in the UK, including all the banks which may be in dispute with companies they have financed.
SME Alliance also questions the voracity of the information referenced by Mr Walker and his team, in particular regarding how many victims of the HBOS Reading fraud were described as businesses that “were in trouble before they reached the bank.” It has been established, and accepted by Lloyds Banking Group which now owns HBOS, that the vast majority of the problems that harmed businesses were caused by HBOS and consultants working with it.
Said Nikki Turner: “To make such a fundamental error brings into question the integrity and credibility of this review.”
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.