Banks are the lifeblood of the economy, so it’s especially important that they have continued to operate during COVID-19.
Although the national lockdown ended on 2 December, Westside BID is continuing its #WestsideStillWorking series to reflect how Birmingham has now entered the toughest Tier 3 restrictions.
Today we look at how the banking sector has remained busy throughout the pandemic, with organisations as small as the Unity Trust Bank and as large as Lloyds, NatWest and Deutsche Bank all having major presences in our district.
The Unity Trust Bank, which has its headquarters at 4 Brindleyplace, sees itself as a commercial bank with a social conscience.
Established in 1984, Unity states its purpose as helping create a better society by supporting SMEs and other organisations that share its philosophy to contribute positively to economic, community and environmental change.
Since becoming a fully independent bank in 2015, Unity Trust has grown significantly, offering a full range of business banking services including current accounts, savings accounts and loans.
The bank highlights how remaining true to its founding principles matches its ambition to be the bank of choice for socially-minded organisations across the UK.
James Whitaker, Unity Trust Bank’s regional director for the Midlands, said: “Despite the challenges faced over recent months, and against a backdrop of increasing economic uncertainty, Unity is proud to have remained open for business and continue to grow.
“We have adapted well to remote working, and we continue to provide a high level of service, demonstrate resilience and act as a driver for positive social change.
“We look forward to implementing a safe return to our headquarters and being part of the Westside community once again in the new year.”
At the other end of the scale is Lloyds Bank, which is considered one of the ‘big four’ UK clearing banks.
Appropriately, Lloyds was founded in Birmingham back in 1765 when button maker John Taylor and iron producer Sampson Lloyd set up a business in Dale End.
It gradually expanded before merging with Trustee Savings Bank to become Lloyds TSB in 1995. This bank is now the principal subsidiary of Lloyds Banking Group, formed in 2009 by the acquisition of HBOS.
A spokesperson for Lloyds, which has major offices at 2 Brindleyplace, said: “We are following all government guidelines within our sites and, where colleagues are able to work from home, they continue to do so.”
Meanwhile, the National Westminster Bank, commonly known as NatWest, was established in 1968 by the merger of National Provincial Bank and Westminster Bank.
In 2000, it became part of The Royal Bank of Scotland Group, which was re-named NatWest Group in 2020, and it is also considered one of the UK’s ‘big four’ clearing banks.
A spokesperson for NatWest, whose Business Banking division has offices at 9 Oozells Street, said: “We understand this is a difficult time for many of our customers.
“To support you, following the latest government coronavirus announcements, we’ve updated our guidance on support for mortgages, loans, credit cards and overdrafts.
“Please help us to support those most vulnerable by only calling or visiting our branches if it’s absolutely critical.”
Finally Deutsche Bank, founded in Germany in 1870, provides global banking services at 5 Brindleyplace, ranging from client relationship management to anti-financial crime.
A spokesman said: “Deutsche Bank’s Birmingham office has continued full operations throughout the pandemic, with the majority of employees working from home successfully since the initial lockdown in March.
“We have maintained a presence in our offices on Westside, mainly for our client-facing teams, with thanks to our building services team for getting our offices Covid-secure and safe for our employees.
“We are hoping 2021 and the vaccine will enable us to bring more employees back in to the office and rekindle the positive office working environment we pride ourselves on.”
Mike Olley, general manager of Westside BID, said: “Banks play such an important role in the lives of most people and businesses, so we are really pleased that they continue to provide a vital service here on Westside.”
By Tony Collins