Archive for September, 2013

Breakfast ClubKicking off the new Cardiff Breakfast Club season this morning was Adrian White, Managing Director of SME Banking at Lloyds Banking Group. Lloyds is the largest financial services employer in Wales, with over 6000 members of staff.

Financial services is a key sector within Wales, yet banking can only thrive if SME businesses can benefit from Access to Finance. It is these smaller businesses, defined as those ranging from start-up to a turnover of £25million, that form the foundation of a “strong and vibrant economy”. Adrian discussed whether a collaborative approach could be the answer to supporting SME growth.

Adrian conceded that the marketplace has been challenging for SME businesses, with many forced to examine all aspects of their operations and “tighten their belts” over recent years. However, many are emerging from the recession stronger than they were when it began. Confidence is a key factor for smaller businesses, and something that Lloyds, and all lenders, need to encourage. With many discounted funding schemes currently available, there has in fact “never been a better time to borrow”, and lending in Wales is currently growing at a very high rate of around 6%.

Alongside these positive indications, Lloyds welcomed the opportunity to discuss and examine the challenges that still face SMEs by taking part in Professor Dylan Jones Evans’ recent review into Access to Finance. This was commissioned by the Welsh Government following extensive consultation with businesses, academia, government and the FSB, among others. Its preliminary findings were recently published on how effectively SMEs are served in Wales, issues that remain challenging, and recommendations to resolve these.

Adrian commented on 2 possible areas for improvement in particular. Firstly, he discussed how greater knowledge of how banks assess funding applications will lead to better applications. While Lloyds currently approves 8 out of 10 requests for funding, the information provided is in many cases presented poorly – even if the business itself is good. Adrian acknowledged that banks themselves could communicate what they need in a business plan better, and went on to discuss the seminars Lloyds are involved with to do just that. 

Lloyds offer a wide range of funding schemes to SMEs - and approve 8 out of 10 funding applications.

Lloyds offer a wide range of funding schemes to SMEs – and approve 8 out of 10 funding applications.

The second area touched upon this morning was awareness of the support already available to SMEs. There is a wide range of Welsh Government support schemes available, but take up of those could be better and more consistent. Start-ups and very small businesses (turnover under £1million) in particular need support, yet Adrian said it is a “continuing challenge” to get these businesses to present bankable proposals. Their lack of track record and lack of ability to demonstrate repayment make it harder for them to have funding approved. Making better use of the support already available would make their success more likely.

Adrian moved on to discuss the wide range of funding options they offer to SMEs, including peer-to-peer lending, business angels and mentoring. 20 members of Lloyds staff in Wales actively work as mentors, and Lloyds is a member of the Business Angel network board. This range of options enables Lloyds to encourage customers to look at the source of funding that is most appropriate for them.

Adrian finished by praising Wales’ “can do” attitude and previous successes: with many successful businesses here, there “must be a lot of things going right”. It is important to continue to work collaboratively to help more SMEs become “business ready” – these good, small businesses “deserve nothing less”.

The next Cardiff Breakfast Club meeting will take place on Thursday 10th October with guest speaker Lynda Campbell, Regional Director for Wales, British Gas. For information or to book your place, contact Sally Taylor on 02920 549597 or 

Edwina Hart, Minister for Business

Edwina Hart, Minister for Business

At last there appears to be real movement from Welsh Government to create an organisation capable of helping to create the Cardiff City Region.

I have written previously, as others have, of the necessity for closer cooperation by public and private sectors in all areas surrounding Cardiff, so that a City Region can be created with sufficient population and scale in order to compete with other regions seeking economic growth and vital inward investment.

Business Minister Edwina Hart today sets out her vision for the Region but has already announced setting up a new Board for Cardiff Capital Region with local authority, private sector and university representatives, who will advise Ms Hart on strategic planning, economic growth and transport priorities across South East Wales.

As Ms Hart states, it will take years to accomplish but it’s an absolute necessity if Cardiff and its Region is to be a real player on the world stage.

Well done Edwina Hart for taking this vital initiative.

gagging lawI had not heard of the proposed gagging law, which is to be debuted by our MPs tomorrow, until my brother John sent me some details today.

Basically, the law will slash the spending limits for third-party groups on campaigning for the year before any general election. Campaigns that have impact don’t cost the earth, but neither are they free!

As a keen supporter of numerous charities including Tenovus and the Prince’s Trust who would be hit like other community groups, I implore the MPs to rethink this very important issue.

On big issues of the day – whether or not to go to war, the future of our NHS, the environment, welfare, immigration etc – we’d all be gagged!

For more information see:

I believe that events over the last couple of weeks have brought a great opportunity for all those involved in promoting all that Cardiff and the region offers to the world.

Estimates have been made as to the economic benefit to Cardiff and the region of our Cardiff City Bluebirds reaching the Premier football division. One figure I read was in the region of £50million!

The team made a wonderful start to their Premiership campaign by beating last year’s champions and title contenders Manchester City, and drawing with Everton last weekend. These matches were seen by a huge worldwide audience, thus putting Cardiff on the world stage.

Gareth Bale became the world's most expensive football player earlier this week - a great advertisement for Wales worldwide!

Gareth Bale became the world’s most expensive football player earlier this week – a great advertisement for Wales worldwide!

However, as reported extensively in local and international media, Cardiff’s own Gareth Bale has just become the most expensive footballer in the world, as his transfer deal to Real Madrid was concluded this week. I believe this move will bring even greater awareness of Cardiff and Wales to a worldwide audience.

Those involved in inward investment, tourism and associated sectors have been handed a golden opportunity to capitalise on this recent worldwide visibility. Let us see some really creative marketing to ensure Cardiff really does benefit from the awareness we now have worldwide, thanks to our sporting hero.

Finally, can I say how impressed I have been by Gareth Bale’s behaviour over recent days. Whlie accepting he has a great team of advisors about him, his down to earth character, professionalism and passion for Cardiff and his homeland is really impressive. What an advertisement for us worldwide!