By Steve Pateman
Head of UK Corporate and Commercial Banking

Manufacturing used to be one of the biggest sectors in the UK. We led the world in making things, from ships to shirts. The last few decades have seen that change, and there are times you could be forgiven for thinking we no longer make anything, and that China has it all sewn up. The reality, however, is a little different.

Proof of that came last week in the latest economic figures. The fourth quarter of 2010 was disappointing for many businesses, but for manufacturers the signs were enormously encouraging. Indeed, in the last month, UK manufacturing grew at its fastest pace for 16 years, driven by the weaker Pound helping exporters. UK manufacturers have taken up the challenges presented in the last few years and many have innovated and fought their way out of difficulty.

But despite this, I think it’s fair to say that some in the manufacturing sector might feel a little unloved by the banks. The manufacturers’ body, the EEF, has been critical in the past over banks’ roles in supporting their members. Our response at Santander Corporate Banking was to engage with the sector in order to understand better what manufacturers in the UK need from their banks.

Having listened and spoken to many in the sector, we recently unveiled a new proposition designed specifically for the manufacturing industry. This includes a range of working capital solutions, from invoice finance to asset finance and beyond. Our Relationship Directors aim to work with businesses to come up with the right solution for their specific needs.

We have adopted this flexible approach with a number of businesses, for example Equip Outdoor Technologies Ltd, which makes clothing and accessories for the outdoor leisure market, and sunglasses manufacturer Fabris Lane. We put together packages for these customers based on their specific needs, and worked with them to understand precisely where the pressure points in their businesses lay.

The only way to achieve this is through engaging with businesses, taking the time to understand them, and backing management teams to the hilt. Ultimately every time we extend finance to a company we are making an investment like any other. We’re proud to say that UK manufacturers have shown how relationship banking like that can really work.”

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