Susan Fouquier

Susan Fouquier

The bank for the Borders

Royal Bank of Scotland not only supports agricultural clients in the Borders but also a whole range of exciting companies, as Susan Fouquier, managing director for business banking in Scotland, explains.

If you ask someone to think of the Borders then more likely than not they’ll immediately imagine the area’s strong farming traditions, from the Reivers with their cattle through to the Cheviot sheep dotted over the rolling hillsides. Yet dig beneath the surface and there’s far more to the region’s economy than livestock and arable farms.

“We support a real mixture of businesses in the Borders,” explains Susan Fouquier, Royal Bank of Scotland’s managing director for business banking in Scotland. “It’s a strong agricultural area for us, but we also do have manufacturers and trading businesses and so we’re a keen supporter of all these areas.

“For those customers that have relationship managers, we have both geographic specialists and sectoral specialists, so we have a lot of agricultural relationship manager specialists in the Borders. It’s a really important area for us.”

Fouquier points to the wider variety of diversification taking place, with farmers considering other options to supplement their income from agriculture. While changes to the feed-in tariff and renewables obligation certificate schemes have changed the subsidy landscape, she said that renewable energy was still of interest to entrepreneurs, including wind turbines and anaerobic digesters.

“Agriculture is seen as a traditional type of sector, but farmers are great at taking opportunities when they’re presented to them,” she says. “We saw a big spike in interest in renewables a couple of years ago before the subsidies changed, but that’s now dropped back, especially for biomass and wind.

“But businesses are continuing to diversify. One farm has specifically gone for growing tomatoes under glass.”

She also highlighted the importance of the tourism sector, not just with farmers opening bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) or guest houses as their latest steps towards diversification, but throughout the wider economy. “The leisure sector in Scotland is very buoyant just now,” Fouquier adds.

“That’s partly due to the weak pound, which makes it easier for tourists from overseas to come and visit us and makes a ‘staycation’ seem more reasonably-priced than in previous years compared with holidaying abroad. It’s also partly due to the perceived terror threat, with Scotland seen as a safer place to holiday.

“Tee-pees and other types of ‘glamping’ are popular. We’re seeing a lot of those businesses springing up around the country.

“The Borders Railway has been good for bringing tourists into the Borders. It’s also great for allowing commuters to live in the Borders and spend money there, but then travel to Edinburgh and Midlothian during the day for work.

“Some of the exciting businesses we work with include: Cocoa Black, the chocolate manufacturer in Peebles; Middlemass Embroidery in Jedburgh; and Dash Blinds in Selkirk, which manufactures blinds for retailers and wholesalers. These are some of the area’s biggest manufacturers and so that connectivity is key.

“We have business growth enablers based throughout Scotland and our enabler in the Borders is Keith Crombie. He helps people to start their own businesses and helps existing businesses to grow by helping them to network and by running events.”

Find out more about Royal Bank of Scotland’s business growth enablers at www.business.rbs.co.uk/business/Boost/contact-us.html