Teresa Graham – Chair of the UK Finance SME Advisory Group tells the CBI about its work and why it’s important that the SME voice is heard
What is the UK Finance SME Advisory Group?
The SME AG was established in 2017 to act as a critical friend and voice within UK Finance, the financial sector trade body, which represents over 250 firms from the mainstream banking community, to alternative finance providers.
Why is it important?
It is vitally important that small businesses, as users of the financial services provided by UK Finance members, have a vehicle to engage in a constructive dialogue, and pursue areas of common interest. As we enter a period of continuing uncertainty, to be effective, banks have to remain customer focused. Nowhere is this truer than in the SME community, where there remains more work to be done to build up trust in the industry- and to restore confidence.
As Chair, I help ensure that the collective views of the SME AG are heard within UK Finance and that the perspectives of small businesses are considered across the full range of activities in the organisation, including providing input to policy development where appropriate.
Who is represented on the Group?
It includes representatives from major business groups such as the CBI, the FSB and BCC, sector specific trade bodies, as well as individual small business owners. Whilst recognising that the needs and views of each of these business representatives can be diverse, by selecting a range of individuals both in terms of representation and experience, the breadth of insights proves invaluable. The SME AG holds quarterly meetings, often inviting guests from other relevant organisations, or from different business areas across UK Finance.
What are its key objectives?
- Informing the appropriate UK Finance Product and Services Boards, UK Finance Board and UK Finance member decision-making, by raising specific issues of SME interest supported by evidence and data.
- Helping UK Finance build and maintain trust and confidence in the financial services industry.
- Challenging the work presented to it by UK Finance, including providing data and offering perspectives based on specific knowledge and market experience.
- Identifying key SME issues and good outcomes for SMEs; it recommends actions for the industry to take forward; and evaluates the way in which those recommendations are taken forward.
- Providing a sounding board for suggestions, issues and questions from the industry.
What are its immediate key deliverables?
These are updated and refreshed continually. Various sub-groups undertake this work in collaboration with UK Finance, with members nominated according to relevant experience.
Over the past year the SME AG has focused on various projects, including:
- Engaging with the Lending Standards Board on simplifying lending agreements
- Supporting and delivering the new Business Banking Resolution Service
- Adapting the Take Five campaign to keep SMEs safe from fraud
- Advocating better payment practice, working closely with the Small Business Commissioner
- Advising the industry on the steps needed to help small business prepare for Brexit
Our role on the SME Advisory Group is to engage, critique and collaborate with UK Finance as it seeks to address the challenges facing the industry.
How can CBI’s SME Members find out more or get involved?
If they have questions about our work or would like to contribute to it, they should contact the group through the CBI’s representative on the group: Chris Wilford