Banker wants to hear from city’s small businesses

GROWING CONFIDENCE Ian Cowie from NatWest and RBS
GROWING CONFIDENCE Ian Cowie from NatWest and RBS

Heading to Waterloo? Then you could face delays

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THE man responsible for small business lending for NatWest and the Royal Bank of Scotland was this morning due to pledge that he wants to do more for Portsmouth’s firms.

Ian Cowie, chief executive of the banks’ business and commercial banking arm, visited the city to talk to customers, employees and business leaders.

His aim, he told The News, was to listen, to rebuild confidence that has been lost in bank lending since the credit crunch hit in 2008, and to find out how the banks could better help the local economy.

He said: ‘We want to find out the best way for us to support the UK economy and the economy around Portsmouth, and we feel the best way to do that is to listen to our customers.’

Mr Cowie said the banks had launched a campaign to write to customers locally to tell them directly the banks are open for lending.

Since then the banks have allocated 356 loans worth £49m via the government’s Funding for Lending scheme in Portsmouth.

However, he acknowledges small and medium-sized business owners might be sceptical of approaching the banks for funding, expecting to be turned down.

He said: ‘We all had our confidence knocked, and we know there’s a lack of trust from the past two or three years with the banks.

‘What we’re trying to do is challenge ourselves – we are lending, and we’re lending more than anybody else, but we want to do more.’

One of the ways the banks are doing that is by launching an independent review into its lending, led by former Bank of England vice chairman Sir Andrew Large.

SMEs and the wider public are being invited to contribute their experience and feedback to the report by completing an online survey at independent lendingreview.co.uk.