Posted on Wednesday 5 October 2016 by ub digital

Partner for growth

Gavin Kennedy, Bank of Ireland UK’s Director of Business Banking for Northern Ireland

Nurturing and supporting value creation within the economy, goes to the heart of a bank’s role in our society.

That statement is particularly true in the business world where companies of all sizes need a bank to be a true partner if sustainable growth is to be achieved.

It needs to understand the challenges and opportunities the business faces, from the shop floor right up to the boardroom, if it’s to be able to offer the right financial support.

Step forward Bank of Ireland UK, a bank which has taken that approach to heart and developed its franchise over 150 years in Northern Ireland by helping customers to scale up their businesses through investment in innovative products and services and expansion into new markets.

They have done that by rolling their sleeves up and getting under the skin of the businesses they deal with, literally reaching out and connecting with the business community.

By doing that they have been able to find out what clients need from a partner bank.

“Our role goes far beyond providing funding,” Gavin Kennedy, Bank of Ireland UK’s Director of Business Banking for Northern Ireland, told Ulster Business. “We make sure we are a true partner to every one of our business customers and get a huge thrill from their success.”

“That means an enduring relationship has always been a core principal of how we do business.  We make sure the relationship management teams remain as constant as possible, bringing the Bank’s full range of expertise to the customer locally, and taking the time to understand the customers’ business.”

That has meant creating a streamlined organisation.

“We have timproved our internal processes and procedures to make them as efficient and customer focused as possible so we can spend more time with our customers and with our potential future customers.”

Equal importance is placed on all sizes of companies, Gavin said.

 “We want to encourage more start-ups to get up and running and to grow,” he said. “We offer tailored propositions, such as small business start-up packages, to make sure this integral part of the economy can thrive.”

Incidentally, the bank’s new start-up and growth propositions launched in 2015, have been awarded a five-star rating by the independent experts at Moneyfacts in 2016 – the only local bank to be recognised in this year’s five star ratings.

“We also want to help nurture and support the big businesses of the future and we’re putting our money where our mouth is by approving nine out of 10 credit applications.”

Ciaran Doherty from Causeway Geotech has certainly been impressed by the bank’s help.

 “With Bank of Ireland UK’s support, we have been able to grow the company substantially since we came on board with them two years ago. Since starting the business in 2012 we have been on an upward trajectory of growth and we need a flexible finance solution, something which Bank of Ireland UK have been able to offer. Other banks don’t provide a dedicated Business Manager to businesses of our scale but Bank of Ireland UK do - by doing so they have made sure they understand our business and our needs. We have compiled a growth plan for the next 12 months and we see Bank of Ireland UK as our banking partner in that phase.”

As well as its own start-up services, Bank of Ireland UK partners with Catalyst Inc on a wide range of programmes tailored to support and encourage business founders to come forward with breakthrough high-tech ideas and to progress these to commercialisation and growth stages.

Evidence of the bank’s enthusiasm to help companies to export and scale up their business is found in a very popular programme it runs in collaboration with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce and Industry. The Connecting for Growth programme, is a cross-border trade initiative designed to facilitate increased business between companies from Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It focuses on bringing together more than 250 local businesses with procurement teams from large buying organisations and is open to any businesses that have an interest in developing cross-border trade opportunities.

Medium-sized companies are a key part of the bank’s business. Gavin’s teams of experienced relationship managers are working with businesses right across Northern Ireland providing their expertise and connecting them with others in order to help them achieve their growth ambitions.   The teams are supported by in-house sector specialists providing better understanding of the business and allowing the businesses to benchmark their own position in their market. 

 “We believe that there is currently significant untapped growth potential in Northern Ireland plc, particularly in the medium sized business segment where innovation has the potential to deliver exponentially,” Gavin said. “Bank of Ireland UK works in partnership with CBI to help create, foster and support our future champions in NI.” 

This month’s 24-hour CBI conference is the annual highlight of that partnership, where we bring together some of NI’s most successful and promising growth stories.

James McIlveen from AJ Power is one of those growth business which has been a long-standing customer of the bank.

“Bank of Ireland UK has been instrumental in the growth of our business. The expertise available within the bank has identified the products that we need and laid the groundwork for expansion into new markets and development of products.”

“In the early days of the business, Bank of Ireland UK gave us access to a commercial finance facility by releasing the value tied up in customer debts.  This product has helped more than any other in allowing export growth to be realised and thus enabling the company to remain export focused with exports sales (outside N.I.) now over 98%.

“The bank’s expertise in trade finance – through the Global Markets team – meant we have been able to secure payments from overseas buyers through trade finance and have used Letters of Credit to manage trading risk.

“They’ve also allowed us reduce our exposure to currency fluctuations using forward contracts and remove a major area of risk which allows us to get on with doing what we do best.”

An important initiative launched last year, The Trinity International Growth Programme, in partnership with Trinity College Dublin and the British Irish Chamber of Commerce is specifically aimed at taking these growth companies to the next level of global innovation and trade.

 “We are privileged to have been a part of the Kainos story since its days as a spin out from QUB to its public flotation,” Gavin said.

Brendan Mooney, the Chief Executive Officer of Kainos said the bank has been an essential partner in the firm’s growth.

“As our banking partner for 30 years, I recognise the contribution that Bank of Ireland has made to our growth over the years - from the small business loans when we were a start-up business to the sophisticated banking arrangements today that support our international expansion.”

The partnering approach is obviously paying off.   The bank has seen demand for funding increase steadily over the past 3 years. Lending approvals have increased by 46% in the first 6 months of 2016.

“We are a trusted adviser to our clients and make sure that we share our experience, our networks and the financial leverage we have access to, to the benefit of our customers,” Gavin said.


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