"I see our main guy from Barclays maybe twice a year," continues Gosling. "I’m just a number to them.”
Mike King isn’t impressed with the banks, either. “I’m not their biggest fan,” admits the owner of Johnson King, a PR company with 20 employees and a turnover of just under £2m. “At their worst, they are big, bureaucratic dinosaurs that couldn’t be more different culturally to fast-moving small businesses. In the past, I’ve found them to be obstructive beyond belief and, at other times, incredibly helpful and supportive. It all boils down to the individuals you are dealing with, their standing within the bank and how well they know and understand your business. For the past few years, King says he’s been dealing with a specialist media team at Barclays and has had the same dedicated manager, Neal Davies. “Barclays has got it right with its industry specific team,” comments King. “I have a good relationship with Neal because he understands my business, knows our finances inside out and is straightforward to deal with. Neal’s based in Soho, in the heart of the media industry, and only deals with small and medium-sized media companies. It makes a big difference. We tend to meet fairly regularly, every couple of months, to keep up to speed with what’s going on. We get on because he’s a no-nonsense bloke and, even though I’d never tell him to his face, I actually quite like him. He’s not a dry, boring banker but someone who is able to help me to improve my business and see the business world as it really is.”Kursha Woodgate, the managing director of Mexia Communications, says she hasn’t met her bank manager at Lloyds TSB once since starting up her business: “When I’ve had a query, it has been dealt with fairly professionally by whoever answers the business support line – but I have had no pro-active contact to check on progress.” Woodgate says she’d prefer her relationship with her bank manager to be more like the one she has with her accountant, who she describes as “extremely supportive and helpful”. “A more personal relationship with my bank manager might help me make the most of Mexia’s finances,” she explains. Leigh Richards, owner of The RIGHT Image PR and Marketing Group, is also exasperated with the banking system: “Many business banking managers are in call centres, in another part of the country," she says. "They aren’t available to meet in person unless, of course, you pay.”
When she visits her local branch every few months to pay in cheques, the teller insists she speaks to the local manager. “He or she has nothing to do with my account and yet they jump on me to sell products," she says. "If I then ask for advice on a particular issue, they refer me back to the call centre – it’s so annoying!”
Mandy Brooks, MD of Surrey-based PR agency Chazbrooks, is one of the few entrepreneurs to give her bank a rave review: "We’re very lucky as our business banking manager, Chris Moore of Lloyds TSB, is exactly on our wave length. He’s easy to get hold of, happy to communicate quickly by phone or email when time is short and equally happy to pop into the office if we need to discuss anything in more detail.”
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