Red Sofa Interviews

Andrew Franklin on the Red Sofa

Interviewer: What do you feel the main challenges are for local businesses today, and how do you see HSBC supporting these?

Andrew: I think there are two main challenges. The first is that SMEs, even limited companies with a couple of directors, have to find all the answers themselves. This is one area where we’re trying to help local businesses by bringing experts in to help. The second is that business owners can spend too much time within a business without seeing the wood for the trees. It would really help if they allocated time to take a helicopter view to work out how to make their business one percent better. If they did that every week, then in theory they could improve their business by half.

Interviewer: Essendon see an accountant’s role as changing to a more advisory role in the coming years due to technology. Do you see HSBC taking a similar stance? And how is technology influencing your role?

Andrew: I agree. I think that when you spend time with your relationship manager, whichever bank it is, they should be adding value with each interaction. The day to day stuff can be covered by internet/telephone banking. But every interaction should lead your relationship manager to look at your business and either try to make it better or enable them to understand how they can provide the best service.

Interviewer: 2020 has already seen a huge milestone with the UK leaving the EU. What opportunities do you feel will arise from this? And what should we look out for?

Andrew: That’s a difficult one. Whenever there is change there will be opportunity. And it’s those businesses that react in a positive way who will be the winners. How can they do that? Again, by taking time out of their business and looking at the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, and understanding what they could do to improve. But they also have to realise it’s not just about product. It’s about what experience comes with that product, because people aren’t just buying based on price now.

Interviewer: HSBC locally are seen as being proactive in supporting their customers with the ‘Business Help Series’. What prompted HSBC to set this up?

Andrew: What made me start the ‘Business Help Series’? Well, my wife went into business and I’ve got thirty years’ experience in banking, so I thought I could just use that to help her. What I discovered, though, is that I didn’t know half the things she had to tackle. I have no idea about branding, or about managing staff in a small business. Or how to promote it. Or how to use social media. And I suddenly thought, if my wife is going through that, my customers must be going through it too. How could I help them?

Through my network. I can see what’s working well for some customers, and what isn’t, and I needed to put them in touch with experts who could help make their business better. Now we’ve got nine experts covering everything from branding, to public relations, to human relations, to grants. We’ve had twenty customers go through this, and we are up to £300,000 of grant applications.

Interviewer: Do you have any advice for our readership on how to maximise their relationship with their bank manager? And the benefits this can bring?

Andrew: The relationship you have is actually with your relationship manager. It’s the same as any relationship a business has with a customer or a supplier. You’ve got to ask yourself:
1) Do I Iike my manager?
2) Is he/she capable? And
3) Does he/she deliver what I need?

If your manager does 2) & 3) but you just don’t like him, you can live with that. But if he/she doesn’t do two out of the three, you need to find yourself a new manager; one who ticks ‘yes’ to each question. Then you’ll be able to share everything about your business, and you’ll feel happy that you’re doing that. Because if a bank is going to help you, they really need to understand your business.

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