As The Business Magazine unveils its Southern Manufacturing 100, NatWest’s regional director of commercial and corporate banking for Thames Valley, Robin Barnes, discusses the challenges and opportunities that disruptive technology and other factors offer the sector
We are delighted to be supporting The Business Magazine’s Southern Manufacturing 100. The Thames Valley may not be the first place that springs to mind as a manufacturing hotbed, but we do boast a proud history and a promising future in the sector.
As a whole, the UK’s manufacturing industry is in a state of constant change and needs to continue to adapt to meet customers’ needs and remain competitive. Because of this, it cannot follow a low-cost, high-volume model and we are now seeing a sector which is more design and innovation led.
This is particularly reflected in the way manufacturing has evolved in the Thames Valley. Given higher infrastructure costs of property and skilled labour, the sector has needed to focus on premium added-value production. This has been achieved by leveraging off the region’s recognised leading skills of innovation and technology. It is for this reason we see strengths in such sectors as electronics, aviation, pharmaceuticals and Formula 1 supply.
While the Thames Valley has a smaller manufacturing presence compared to many other regions, it punches above its weight both in terms of productivity and exports. Despite the pressures facing the sector, the region has come through the downturn strongly given its strong links to the domestic market and low exposure to the North Sea oil and gas industry. The challenges for the sector in the region going forward revolve around skills, productivity and evolving technologies, with the sector expected to continue recruiting staff and continue with long term investment.
Since the global financial crisis in 2008, the UK’s economic recovery has been in large part powered by exports. More than 50% of UK manufacturing output is exported, and the sector is a key contributor to the country’s prosperity.
We know that further challenges – but also huge opportunities – are arising thanks to digital technology. Digital has already disrupted other industries such as photography, the media and telecommunications, and now each and every manufacturer needs to consider how they can embrace and benefit from digital advances.
Innovations such as 3D printing, also known as additive manufacturing, are changing the landscape for small and large manufacturers alike. The move towards digital is increasing competition by lowering the barriers to entry and is leading to a shift towards localisation. Smaller firms now have the chance once again to make products for their local markets.
This presents a huge opportunity for the manufacturing sector in the Thames Valley and we are proud to have a local specialist team dedicated to supporting it.
NatWest has more than 200 specialist manufacturing relationship managers independently accredited by the Chartered Banker Institute. That includes a team of six working in the Thames Valley, led by relationship director Nick Jones. The team works closely with customers to find out how they are future-proofing their businesses, from financing exports and identifying potential markets to whether their premises are energy efficient.
To ensure we actively collaborate with industry we work with a number of bodies to support the manufacturing sector in the UK, including the EEF, the UK Automotive Council, IMechE and UKTI.
An example of this collaboration is our work with the UK Automotive Council which last year led us to become the first bank to develop a bespoke tooling finance initiative. The £25 million tooling proposition was launched in response to feedback from members and the automotive supply chain as a bespoke solution to an urgent requirement for funding assistance to support sector growth.
Across the UK we have a 23% market share of lending in the manufacturing sector, with new lending of more than £1 billion last year. We are market leading providers of asset finance, invoice finance and transaction services. We provide a host of solutions to meet a customer’s international business requirements, from solutions to mitigate your trading risks such as letters of credit, to funding or foreign exchange. We also work with NatWest Mentor which offers an in-house advice, support and consultancy service including a nationwide energy audit service to help businesses identify potential cost savings.
To speak to a member of NatWest’s specialist manufacturing team in the Thames Valley see details below.
Robin Barnes: 07789-271751 firstname.lastname@example.org
Nick Jones: 07774-650322 email@example.com