The initiative, which includes all of the bank's relationship managers in England and Wales who look after businesses with a turnover of up to £25m, aims to provide the bank's teams with a greater insight into the workings of an SME business – as well as the day-to-day pressures that owners or managers face.
In Cardiff, each business banking and commercial banking relationship manager will be tasked with examining how their chosen businesses operate, assessing their goals and future plans, plus identifying any barriers or challenges it faces. A key part of the 'Working With You' programme is to collect and share information from each visit amongst all relationship managers to ensure they are better equipped to help the bank's 1.2m SME customers in the UK. The initiative also forms part of the bank's national accreditation programme for relationship managers.
Chalmers Opticians has been running from its location on Albany Road for over 60 years and now has over 35,000 customers on its books. The business, employing 12 staff, sees 400 patients every week.
Ian Chalmers of Chalmers Independent Opticians said: "When Haydn approached me about spending a day with us I thought it was a fantastic idea. There is only so much you can communicate through paperwork and meetings – there's no substitute for actually seeing first hand how we run our business. Just through chatting while he was in the shop I learnt a lot about how the bank's own processes work, which is important. As a business that has lots of suppliers, we need to understand our supply chain, and as a supplier of financial services to us the bank has a principal role to play in that. Anything that increases mutual understanding on both sides has to be a very good thing."
Business banking managing director for South Wales Haydn Thomas said: "We have launched this initiative to improve the relationship between the bank and its SME customers. We will approach these visits with a blank agenda so we can work with the customer to get under the skin of the business. This is all about us thinking as the businesses themselves do, ensuring that they get what they really need from us. This puts us in a better position to offer practical support and advice – as well as helping to identify opportunities for future growth. I certainly took away a lot from my visit to Ian's team in Cardiff and feedback from Ian was that it was a very worthwhile exercise."