“COVID-19 has not been without its challenges, but we’ve been able to positively enhance our brand and reputation in a marketplace where some of our peers stumbled and stuttered,” says Redwood Bank’s Leon Marklew. The Director of Business Development has been with the Hertfordshire Challenger Bank for two years and has notched up over 30 years in total working within the banking industry. However, he freely admits that in all his years of service he has never seen a crisis such as the coronavirus fall out which has caused such “widespread disruption, as well as a cluster of exciting opportunities”.
“There’s no doubt about it, COVID-19 changed the world and the way we look at it. A significant number of people took the opportunity to reflect not just on their finances, but on what’s really important to them, and why those things are important. Things that we perhaps used to take for granted we no longer can, and the impact has been wide and far.
“For some, there has been uncertainty around their jobs, their businesses, their financial security and what the future holds for them. Others have taken the opportunity to reduce their outgoings, helped by having to stay home during lockdown. They’ve been able to build up savings or reduce their levels of personal debt during the pandemic, which is always a positive.”
But for Redwood, a Challenger Bank that was developed to help SMEs flourish and grow, the team has been enthused by the number of people with “entrepreneurial spirit” who have got in touch in the last few months.
"Although COVID-19 brought with it an avalanche of disruption and dismay for business owners it has also presented some with huge opportunities to grow their business or portfolio. These are people who believe in taking calculated risks for the right opportunities and I believe it’s Redwood Bank’s job to help them wherever possible,” Leon says.
Challenger Banks, in the main, have adapted well during lockdown and continue to thrive because being smaller means they can be “nimbler and even more reactive”, when they need to be, Leon explains.
He adds: “Redwood continues to appeal to a broader range of new customers who appreciate our responsive, transparent and open approach. We’ve been very clear from the outset about what we can and can’t do during the pandemic, and I believe that’s been appreciated by our customers.
“In addition, we’ve reached out to a wide broker network to tell them about all the areas where we’ve helped customers, and in return they have brought us quality opportunities at levels that far exceeded our expectations at the start of the pandemic.”
Now the Redwood team is embracing the significant number of changes that have been made to lending policies and overall banking practices across the whole of the financial services industry, brought on by the impact of the pandemic.
“We have seen Government-backed initiatives such as Coronavirus Business Interruption Loans (CBILS) and Bounce Back Loans introduced to help those firms specifically affected,” Leon says.
“We’ve also seen forbearance, and capital and interest payment holidays granted for both firms and individuals whose income has been adversely impacted over the last six months.
“There’s been major high street names closing down, more than 750,000 jobs lost in the UK alone and over 9.2m employees furloughed by 1.2m businesses. All these things will undoubtedly have an impact on both firms and people’s abilities to service debt and on banks’ lending appetites for some period to come.
“However, I’m an eternal optimist, and although I believe there’ll be many challenges for the rest of this year and probably most of next, I also think the steps that have already been taken to support the economy were needed and with the right levels of continued support and guidance, the SMEs of the UK will unite and weather this storm together.”
If you would like to learn more Redwood Bank’s loans, call our team today on 0330 053 6067 or visit redwoodbank.co.uk/loans