As part of Business News Wales' ongoing series of interviews, we had the opportunity to speak with Jason Evans, the Regional Director for Mid Markets banking in Wales.
- Tell us a bit about your role?
As regional director for Lloyds Bank’s Mid Markets team in the South West and South Wales, I am responsible for a team of relationship directors who work with more than 300 businesses across the region.
We support companies that typically have a turnover between £25 and £750 million, providing the funding, guidance and strategic ideas that they need to achieve their ambitions.
- What is the best thing about your role?
As clichéd as it sounds, it’s great to know that we are having a tangible impact on the local business community. I’ve worked in finance for more than 25 years and I’m still proud when I know that my team have played a small but important part in helping a company to succeed.
Wales has a fantastic range of businesses that are constantly adapting to changing market conditions and it’s really fulfilling to work with such a wide variety of companies.
- What are the biggest challenges that firms face in 2017?
Political and Economic uncertainty – the result of the EU Referendum has caused some uncertainty in the market place over the past months, and our latest Regional PMI report has found that the drop in the value of sterling has led to the biggest rise in business costs since January 2011.
This feeling of uncertainty looks set to continue until the full details of the exit deal is revealed, and it’s vital that firms reach out to a trusted business advisor if they are experiencing any challenges, issues or opportunities.
Skills Shortage – our research recently found that a lack of skills is causing some concern for businesses, with more than a quarter (28 per cent) stating that it’s affecting productivity growth.
This is not just an issue in Wales, but for the UK as a whole, and the Chancellor highlighted in his Autumn Statement the need for more investment in skills to ensure that the country doesn’t get stuck in a productivity slow lane.
At Lloyds Bank, we’re working closely with companies to ensure that they have the correct guidance and funding support needed so that they can recruit people with the correct skills, helping them to grow both at home and overseas.
- What are the top tips that you would give business in 2017?
Explore new markets – British brands are becoming increasingly popular overseas, and combined with the opportunities the weak pound is creating, now may be the ideal time for companies to start exploring international opportunities.
However, speaking to business leaders across the region, some can be nervous about exporting for the first time.
With this in mind we have recently launched an International Trade Portal as part of our partnering with the Department for International Trade, which can help businesses identify new opportunities overseas and help customers break into new markets.
Embrace the future – the rate of technological change is showing no signs of slowing down, and it’s vital that firms start to embrace the opportunities that adopting new technologies can bring.
In the manufacturing sector particularly, new technology is having a significant impact with many people stating that we’re in the midst of a fourth industrial revolution. This is where the development of connected devices, robotics and artificial intelligence is revolutionising the way that businesses operate.
However, it’s thought that many companies are not actively investing in new technology because they are unaware of the finance available, and are concerned that it will affect their day-to-day cashflow.
Some firms may not know, for example, that the Annual Investment Allowance can be used to invest in automation, just as it has enabled them to purchase other plant machinery.
Asset finance facilities allow companies to spread the cost of payments, so investing in new technology doesn’t impact the available working capital in the business. Trade finance facilities are also ideal for companies that need to buy machinery from overseas, helping them to bridge the payment and giving them the confidence to import items securely.
- What is the one quality you think people need to succeed in business?
The ability to adapt. The world is constantly changing and the most successful people are those that seize the opportunities it brings.