What are the main functions of your role?
Where do I start, I have such a wide breadth of responsibilities, which is brilliant! Managing the cashflows is super important (especially for a start-up) and ensuring the accounts are accurately maintained, reported and understood is perhaps the core function. Maintaining the budgets and longer-term financial plans to ensure we know where we are heading is also an important part of my role. Getting us positioned to ensure we can meet the technical accounting and regulatory requirements takes up a good chunk of my time too. Finally and probably the most enjoyable area I’m involved in is with our investors and assisting in getting the funding we require. So they are the “main bits” but there are so many other things and it’s great to help out wherever I can!
How does working at a start-up bank compare to an established organisation?
Firstly, it's important to note that it is very different and with that come challenges and opportunities. Working in a start-up is something I have found hugely energising and one of the biggest advantages is the ability to act on thoughts, ideas, intuition etc. Everyone will have experienced times where things “just don’t work”, for whatever reason, but in a start-up, you don’t just have the opportunity but, in reality, you have an actual duty to make the change so it does work! Many larger established organisations aspire to be agile and responsive but only through working at B-North have I truly experienced agility and responsiveness. It’s a brilliant feeling when your ideas and suggestions are not only listened to but then you're told to “go make it happen!”
What has been a major challenge in the building of B-North, and how did you overcome it?
For any start-up cash flow is critical and we are no different at B-North. The impact the pandemic had on our cash runway was a major challenge but one we collectively addressed. The response by every individual has been inspiring with the sacrifices they have personally made over the past 12 months. Over that time I have been working on identifying opportunities to spread and extend our working capital as far as possible so that the business can focus on delivering what we need to achieve with obtaining our Banking Licence being the biggest one of course. To achieve this it is critical to plan and project on a worst-case basis whilst proactively identifying opportunities. It’s been a constant challenge but a rewarding one nevertheless and when we have achieved our Banking Licence it will be something I will reflect on proudly in the future.
How significant is it that B-North is moving from a centralised decision-making process to a lending pod model?
Hugely significant and especially so in the commercial lending market. We are committed to delivering a truly brilliant customer experience as well as the products our customers need. Having a regional banking approach through our lending pod model will facilitate that. Our future customers will need finance to support or grow their own businesses and the decisions they make are so important for not just them but their employees, suppliers and customers. If it was my business, having a Bank that truly understands your business, your location, your people, your market etc., is something I would want. Our regional pod model is not just built for speed, but will also enable us to best tailor the product to meet the customer’s needs. I can’t wait to see our fantastic commercial team “go to market” and wow our customers with our technology, our responsiveness, and our ability to meet their needs!
Demystifying finance is a key interest of yours. What tip would you give SMEs that might approach the finances of their businesses with a little trepidation?
Finance is one of those areas with lots of acronyms and abbreviations as well as lots of strange-sounding words, phrases and concepts and can be daunting but which in reality are actually very straightforward with a bit of context and explanation. Not everyone likes or loves numbers and in fact, many dread them and I get that, but if you run an SME then you have to face any trepidation you may have. An SME should have a qualified accountant either in-house (if the company is large enough to support that) or use the services of a firm that practices accountancy to deal with all of the technical, reporting, and tax issues. This expertise will ensure you don’t fall foul of any laws and regulations. Once you know you aren’t going to break any rules it's all about questioning, querying and using the financial information to make better-informed business decisions as well as assessing past ones to see if there is anything you could/should have done differently.
Outside of work, how do you like to spend your spare time?
Well like most I enjoy spending time with family and friends and am very much looking forward to a pint of real ale out of a real pint glass in a real pub later this year! Over the past few years, I've got very much into my cycling and can often be found out spinning on the roads or in my garage on my turbo (as has been the case over the past few months) and I find it a great way to relax and (try to) keep fit!