In our latest Q&A with regional business leaders we ask Gerry McPake, Senior Manager at Allied Irish Bank (GB) in Nottingham, how his customers are feeling about the year ahead, how the bank can support clients’ growth aspirations and the common characteristics he sees in successful regional businesses.
Can you tell us a little about Allied Irish Bank (GB)?
Allied Irish Bank (GB) is a business bank focused on delivering relationship driven services to medium and large sized businesses. We’ve been operating in the UK for close on 50 years and by providing tailored services to clients our offering can be characterised as ‘Private Banking for Businesses’. We serve the East Midlands from our office in Nottingham and as we move towards the close of a very successful 2017, we’re looking forward to supporting our customers’ growth aspirations in 2018 and beyond.
How do AIB (GB) clients feel about those growth prospects for 2018?
On the whole, our customers are reporting steady trading conditions with growth forecasts being maintained for next year. Over the last 18 months or so, the market has had to deal with issues such as the Brexit vote, the US election result and the fallout from our own General Election. Whilst Brexit and the General Election have introduced uncertainties into the domestic economy, we’re seeing a real sense of resolve amongst our customers to continue to take their businesses forward. Investment intentions remain solid, with no sign of decisions being paused or shelved at the moment. It’s something we’ll keep under review, but indications at present are positive.
What business sectors will AIB (GB) be focusing on next year and beyond?
In recent years, AIB (GB) has made considerable investment in its people and e have relationship managers with deep knowledge and great experience across several key sectors including Manufacturing & Engineering; Hotels & Leisure; Healthcare and Professional Services. Over the last year we have supported both new and existing customers in these sectors from our base in Nottingham, with senior team colleagues Carol Noonan and Dale Cowdell really helping to drive those successes, and we see plenty of opportunities for further growth as we look ahead.
What does AIB (GB) bring to the table when discussing growth strategies with its customers?
We are set up so that our relationship managers look after relatively small portfolios. This allows us to really get to know the business of our customers at a deep level, so that we’re aware of their hopes, ambitions and aspirations. Similarly, we discuss their challenges with them and really feel part of their group of trusted advisors. In simple terms, the better we understand our customers’ businesses, the better we can advocate, within the bank, on their behalf. This makes for superb long term customer/banker relationships.
What tools/resources do your customers need to achieve their growth plans?
This is something we often discuss with our customers. Responses can be wide- ranging. For some, it’s workforce skills and capability. For others it’s investment in systems, technology and training to drive efficiency and operational leanness. Access to finance is critical, so that investment programmes can proceed. The message for us is that we need to have conversations with our customers early, not only in relation to short term financing needs, but also looking further ahead. In doing so we become a key participant in our customers’ growth stories and bring real value to the services we offer.
Looking across your customer base, are there any characteristics which are common to successful businesses, irrespective of sector?
This is an interesting question and the answer is yes, absolutely. First of all, without exception, successful businesses are led by management teams who are capable, work hard, are open to and embrace change. Secondly, they stay close to their workforce, customers and suppliers. In addition, they tend to have great professional advisers – accountancy, legal etc. And may I also suggest that a strong and transparent banking relationship is a factor? It’s not for me to say, but I do hope that our customers would agree with that final point.