Mission to make the bank manager friend to SMEs

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A SENIOR figure at Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) yesterday said he wanted bank managers to be trusted advisers at the heart of the community, after the banking sector lost its way in the run-up to the financial crisis of 2008.

Chris Sullivan, the chief executive of the UK corporate banking division at RBS, said the bank was lending £100m a day to small and medium sized enterprise (SMEs).

Speaking during a trip to Tankersley, near Barnsley, Mr Sullivan said: “I expect the net lending level to grow next year. I have no motivation to turn away good opportunities to lend.

“My market share is 30 per cent, I am way above that in terms of overall lending.”

Mr Sullivan made his comments on the same day that the British Bankers’ Association (BBA) reported that the net lending to non-financial companies fell by £1.7bn in April after a drop of £2bn in March. There was an average monthly fall of £1.5bn over the previous six months.

Mr Sullivan was attending a seminar for manufacturing customers in Tankersley, which included speeches from Lee Hopley, the chief economist from the manufacturers’ organisation the EEF and former sports minister Richard Caborn.

Mr Sullivan acknowledged that people had been concerned about the loss of bank managers, who had strong local knowledge. Every manager at RBS has to spend two days a year working in a small business, so they could understand the pressures of running a small firm.

“I want them to be out in the communities understanding those business models,’’ he said. “We want the bank manager to be a trusted adviser. I want to change the face of banking for business in Britain and support people moving forward in the modern world.”

A spokesman for RBS, which is 82 per cent owned by the taxpayer, confirmed that Mr Sullivan’s total remuneration last year was £1.52m, although this was not all up front, with some elements of it deferred. For example, it can be clawed back if he leaves the group. The spokesman added: “2011’s new overall lending was more than £30bn, more than twice our nearest competitor.”

Howard Archer, the chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: “The further fall in net lending to non-financial companies in April reported by the BBA is undoubtedly influenced significantly by low demand for credit and by many companies looking to pay down debt.

“It is evident that companies are wary about borrowing and investing in the current difficult economic environments.

“Even so, the BBA data will likely maintain concerns that tight credit conditions are a significant problem for many smaller companies.”