Hospitality and leisure have suffered – are banks listening?

By Ian Walters, Managing Director of Distribution at Metro Bank

I’ll start with the obvious – and forgive me – but what a year it’s been for businesses in the UK. Especially for those working in the hospitality and leisure industry.

Staying safe has of course been the number one priority, as we have all adapted and responded to these unique circumstances. The past year has posed some of the most significant business challenges we’ve seen in generations. It’s been heartening to see that banks and lenders across the country have done their utmost to genuinely listen to their customers, stepping up to the plate and supporting hospitality and leisure businesses in their hour of need.

Surviving the pandemic – hospitality and leisure hit harder than most

Figures from HM Treasury revealed that the financial services industry had provided more than £75 billion to 1.6 million businesses as of the end of March 2021. The numbers are quite staggering. At Metro Bank, we understand this ourselves, having offered £1.5 billion to 36,000 businesses to date, as well as being an accredited lender on the Government’s much newer Recovery Loan Scheme.

Within that huge outlay of support for the nation’s businesses, a significant portion went to the hospitality and leisure industry. According to the British Business Bank’s own data, 10% of all Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILs) and 11% of Bounce Back Loans (BBLs) went to businesses operating in industries such as the arts, entertainment, recreation, accommodation and food services.

One industry that’s been hit extremely hard is the world of live sport, with clubs across the country having to close their doors and lose lucrative match day revenue. This has a huge knock-on effect for other industries with interlinked services, such as security, on-site food and drink vendors, not to mention the countless bars, cafes, restaurants and hotels near to stadiums.

We know this first-hand, having assisted Lancashire County Cricket Club throughout the pandemic and securing vital funding for Everton FC to support the club throughout the partial shutdown of the Premier League season.

But there’s always more that can be done; the question of what the banking sector can do to help the hospitality and leisure industry right now is more vitally important than ever before.

Digital banking is key for businesses, but it isn’t a replacement for the good old fashioned personal touch

When it comes to physical versus digital, it’s not a case of either or. The combination of the two – “bricks and clicks” as we call it – means that people can benefit from the best of both worlds. We wanted to better understand how people felt about their local high street bank, so last year we conducted some research with YouGov. We learnt that almost half (44%) of people have been impacted by bank closures or reduced opening times during the coronavirus pandemic. More than half (51%) of people also agree they like to speak to someone face-to-face – this increases to nearly two-thirds (62%) of over 55s.

People need that human connection – especially business owners who may be suffering financially due to the effects of the pandemic. We like to think of ourselves as a “people-people bank”, one that understands the immense value of human interactions and offers a truly personalised level of service.

That’s why we’re so committed to keeping our stores open longer and later, 7 days a week for all customers with a full range of services available. As a Metro Bank business customer, you’ll always have access to your own personal business manager to help support you. We want to become the UK’s best community bank – that means listening to our business customers, understanding their concerns and giving them the best level of service no matter how they bank with us.

The key point is that banks need to listen to their customers as much as possible. Businesses across the country – and hospitality and leisure is a prime example of this – need agile, convenient solutions to their problems.

The banking industry offers all sorts of solutions from the ability to borrow against unpaid invoices and get a flexible line of credit to streamlined lending processes for smaller businesses. If you’re a family run restaurant just getting back on your feet after lockdown easing, or a seaside B&B seeing custom spark back into life, these innovations could be the difference between your business surviving or failing.

In tough times, business owners can experience immense stress and their emotional wellbeing can suffer as a result. By acting as patient creditors for the nation’s businesses – whilst making innovative changes to their products and processes – banks and other lenders have an important role to play.

In February 2021, The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) confirmed Metro Bank as the number one rated high street bank for service in stores for business customers, and the number two rated high street bank for overall service quality. We understand what businesses need from a bank, whether they’re a local restaurant just starting out or a large, historic commercial organisation.