We sat down with Taylor Edwards, Area Sales Manager in our Scotland team to hear about his background working in the local area, get his thoughts on how the region has fared through the pandemic and his predictions for the future.
Tell us about your work history?
I previously worked in the foreign currency market for five years starting in face to face sales before moving into area then regional management before joining Close Brothers in August 2018. I was a member of the second Sales Academy to begin with and covered the south of Scotland, Lanarkshire and NW Cumbria for the Glasgow office.
When I was younger, I worked in the family business which does embroidery/screen printing for local businesses such as schools etc. I found that helped me build good relationships with many local businesses.
What do you find most rewarding and challenging about your role?
Supporting any customer expand, diversify or simply restructure their existing borrowing to take their business forward always makes you feel good about the role. Creating and providing a solution for any customer is what we are all about and the trust and high regard our customers have for what Close Brothers can deliver is always rewarding.
There are always challenges. These will differ day to day. Covering a largely rural area can bring its own challenges too (especially in Winter.) However, during these times, the biggest challenge has been the fact it’s obviously difficult to see customers face to face and deliver the same type of service we’ve always been used too. Everyone has been very understanding of that, but it has taken some getting used to.
How has the Covid-19 pandemic affected your industry specifically?
All sectors we support have been affected one way or another. Haulage has seen a vast spread of either a significant upsurge in demand for supplies to be transported during the first lockdown, or customers were parked up for several weeks. There was a very strange divide and customers with very similar contracts often found themselves facing very different challenges.
Within the space of 24-48 hours of lockdown being announced, some coach companies saw a complete removal of their entire years’ worth of private bookings. You simply cannot make up for that loss at such short notice, but we were quick to reach out to all our customers within that sector to ensure we did everything we could to support them.
Forestry saw strong levels of work, however most contractors were locked down to begin with so despite having good levels of work across the board, many couldn’t fulfil those contracts for several weeks which created significant strains on cash flow etc. Agriculture continued as normal but again further down the production line as such – demands for the likes of dairy products as restaurants were closed; saw some farms forced to pour milk down the drain.
There’s been a definite mixed bag of ways the industries we support have been affected and that is continuing as more regionalised/devolved lockdowns start to also affect levels of trade. A customer in Carlisle could have completely different restrictions and consequently effects on their workload compared to a customer a mere 10/20 minutes away in Dumfriesshire.
How have you and your team ensured the wellbeing of both staff and customers throughout lock down?
We have all been working from home since late March and even when the office reopened there was a structure in place to make sure everyone was as safe as they could be.
A lot of what we’d usually cover face to face has now had to be done over the phone or by email and when you’re so used to covering everything you can face to face, it has brought it’s challenges but the health and safety of our team and customers is always going to be the number one priority. I’d like to think the measures we have put in place will always safeguard that.
What are your predictions for your industry for the next 12 months?
I think the next 12 months for many sectors will depend on how restrictions ease. Brexit is also playing a big role in the likes of the haulage sector just now. How that unfolds will play just as big a part in this year’s trade as what any COVID restrictions will dictate.
Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) has been a large part in how we have supported so many businesses across the UK in recent months, the deadline for applications at present is the 31st March. Once CBILS concludes, I think we’ll see some potential changes in all markets.
Refinance will always play a large role in how we can support businesses this year and beyond, we may possibly see a higher demand for that product as once restrictions ease, and demand for more work starts to emerge again, running costs will need to be supported for many to meet those demands.
I think most of all, a lot of people will be wanting some normality back. We have many customers with big plans for 2021 and beyond which gives us confidence that whatever the next twelve months bring – we’ll have many flexible and creative solutions in order to support our customers going forward.