'BBRS could resolve up to 6,000 cases over next three years'

The new Business Banking Resolution Service (BBRS) could resolve up to 6,000 cases brought by people who claim they’ve been mistreated by the banks over the next three years, according to the organisation’s chairman.

Lewis Shand Smith, Chair of the Business Banking Resolution Service

Lewis Shand Smith, the chair of the BBRS, said he wanted to provide victim of banking misconduct with the chance to obtain justice and get on with their lives.

For several years, MPs, regulators and business groups have claimed that SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) with legitimate grievances against the banks have lacked a fast, inexpensive route to justice.

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The BBRS has been established to provide an industry-funded independent service to resolve eligible historical and current disputes between SMEs and participating banks, with a view to delivering “fair, reasonable and independent” outcomes and without the need for litigation or external legal support.

The BBRS will use alternative dispute resolution techniques to settle unresolved complaints from larger SMEs with seven participating banks, who make up the majority of the business banking market.

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Fair Business Banking (APPG), a long-standing critic of the big banks, said it had spent two years working with stakeholders to set up a robust and independent system to protect small business customers.

The APPG believes the BBRS can determine “fair and reasonable outcomes” for small businesses, although it said concerns remained about the commitment of the banks to resolve historic complaints.

Mr Shand Smith, who is a former Chief Ombudsman and chief executive of Ombudsman Services, said the BBRS will receive evidence from both sides involved in the dispute. He said the ability to use informal methods and mediation was also built into the BBRS.

He added: “We will also look at ineligible cases to try and persuade the banks to look at them. In some cases, they might have previously received the right answer but it was not explained how it was arrived at. We will provide strong, empathetic support to people.

“It is voluntary but the banks have signed a legal obligation to respect the findings and these legal documents underpin the total independence of the BBRS. We have an independent board and we are led by a deputy high court judge.”

He added: “According to the best estimate, we could be looking at a maximum of 6,000 cases over the next three years. These cases will be both contemporary and historic.

“Many of these cases are complex and some people do feel traumatised. We will deal with these on a one-to-one basis.

“It’s more than simply justice – it is about ensuring that the right thing is done. The case handlers will see whether mediation is a suitable option.”

Lewis Shand Smith has worked as a politician, priest, and most recently spent 10 years as the Chief Ombudsman in Energy, Telecoms and Property.

During BBRS’ formation, Mr Shand Smith was appointed as chair of the Implementation Steering Group and has been the independent chair since its formation.

He said: “Some of the world-leading mediators are based in the UK. It (the BBRS) can provide a solution that both sides can live with. I want the independence and fairness of the BBRS to be abundantly clear.”

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