Big banks seek to create 'business-friendly' image through PR drive

Britain's top banks are poised to hire a PR agency to rehabilitate the industry's reputation among small businesses.

Industry drive: Barclays is part of the task force
Industry drive: Barclays is part of the task force

Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, RBS, Santander and Standard Chartered are among the well-known high street names participating in the Business Finance Taskforce, which is currently on the hunt for PR advice.

The taskforce, launched in October, aims to rebuild bridges with British SMEs following the financial crisis by improving relationships, access to finance and the provision of information.

The final stage of a pitch is understood to have taken place in recent days. According to one well-placed source: 'It is all about making sure the banks are seen as friends of SMEs.'

The pitch is being overseen by the British Bankers' Association, which co-ordinates the Business Finance Taskforce.

Portland, Fishburn Hedges and Open Road were all believed to be in the frame for the campaign as PRWeek went to press.

The winning agency will support the BBA's in-house comms team, which is led by Lesley McLeod, in a media relations drive to generate and improve coverage of banks in relation to small businesses.

The brief is thought to last for an initial six months, and be worth about £200,000 over that period.

The BBA has been at the forefront of public defence of the industry, leading efforts to combat the idea that Britain's banks have not been helping to kick-start the private sector.

The taskforce was launched last October with 17 commitments.

These included establishing a £1.5bn business growth fund, publishing a regular independent survey and improving access to debt, trade and alternative finance.

BANKS IN THE NEWS

Feb 2011: The Government says it will increase the levy on UK banks by £800m to £2.5bn.

Jan 2011: Deputy PM Nick Clegg tells the BBC the UK banking sector must be reformed so taxpayers are not liable for its mistakes.

Jan 2011: Edelman Trust Barometer finds trust in UK banks fell to 16 per cent, a 30-point drop in three years.

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