It is refreshing to see a banker with a broad smile on his face. Kevin Boyd, Santander’s Divisional Managing Director for Scotland, is an upbeat guy and speaks with passion about how Santander Corporate & Commercial is forging ahead on a number of fronts.
A recent Santander business growth survey has shown that business confidence in the UK is at its highest level for three years, with businesses focused on growth both at home and overseas. It’s extremely encouraging and while business owners report that trading conditions remain challenging, a fifth believe that their business has never been in better shape. Santander is committed to helping businesses prosper and has been a consistent supporter of businesses in the UK, with lending over the last four years growing by an average of 17% per year.
In the hospitality sector specifically, companies, such as Crieff Hydro, which has purchased the Peebles Hydro, and aiming for a turnover of £30m, and Seamill Hydro Hotel, on the Ayrshire coast, which has invested £5m in refurbishment, have been among those switching their business to Santander.
Learning from the masters
But Boyd and the team at Santander recognise that the role of the modern banker in supporting businesses involves more than just providing a business current account or loan facility as he explains “We aim to provide ‘added value’ experiences that help bring our network of influencers together and, where possible, work with our own customers to help deliver ‘thought leadership’ Masterclasses.
One such Masterclass took place towards the end of 2014 with Crieff Hydro, the iconic Scottish tourist business. The journey that Stephen Leckie, John Jennet and their team at Crieff Hydro has been on over recent years is a truly fantastic one and we were delighted that they were prepared to share it with 17 other businesses. “
This is real example of how Santander is really adding value with an experience that you would not typically expect to be offered from a bank.
Sourcing future talent
The survey also showed that the outlook for staff retention and new job creation is also positive, which is welcome news for the wider UK economy and the hospitality sector.
While the industry has been working hard to improve levels of training, Santander has been involved with Hospitality Industry Trust (HIT Scotland), supporting events to raise funds for industry bursaries and scholarships.
Boyd says “The need to attract quality staff continues to be a challenge for hospitality businesses and by linking up with universities across Scotland we’ve been able to make a positive impact. Firstly, we work with the universities to source suitable candidates; individuals that are interested in building a career in the hospitality sector and welcome the opportunity to go and work with an employer for a three month period.
Secondly, we fund 50% of the salary costs for the period.” This is an excellent way of helping SMEs get an important project off the ground, where employment costs may otherwise prove to be a barrier and about putting young talented people into hospitality businesses and improving their business acumen.
Boyd confirms, “What’s more, you don’t have to be a Santander customer to take advantage of this initiative – of course we’d like you to be - but it really is a genuine attempt to support these important sectors and, in so doing, help the wider Scottish economy.
It is just one part of our innovative Breakthrough programme designed to support the UK’s best fast-growing small businesses.
Santander is keen to extend its portfolio of business in Scotland’s hospitality sector, bringing added value through its innovative schemes. Boyd stresses the importance of sustaining the relations with the client. “Our ethos is in relationship banking, getting to know our customers, what’s important to their business and developing solutions that are a good fit on both sides. We want to look after their business and believe we have a lot to offer Scottish SMEs.”
Kevin Boyd is obviously relishing his role and the challenges and opportunities ahead, so it’s no wonder he maintains such a broad grin on his face.