Breakthrough Roundtable: Huddersfield

Breakthrough Roundtables offer small groups of delegates from a range of sectors the opportunity to come together for open discussions and to meet Santander representatives

“There’s a real passion ignited when entrepreneurs sit down together and talk and our latest Roundtable was no exception,” says Jonathan Rostron, Santander Business Development Director, North East. “It was a melting pot of war stories, advice and inspiration. Everyone came away enthused and excited.”
Working lunch
The latest SME Roundtable took place on 30 October 2014 in Buckley 3M Innovation Centre in Huddersfield. Held in conjunction with the University of Huddersfield, the event saw 11 fast-growth local businesses attend the open discussion. As always, the Roundtable was conducted under the Chatham House Rules of confidentiality, which allows participants to speak freely and in complete confidence.
The event was attended by Santander’s Executive Director and Head of UK Banking, Steve Pateman and chaired by John Williams, Head of Breakthrough, Santander UK. “The attendees were dynamic owners running fast-paced businesses and they all had something valuable to contribute,” says Jonathan. “John Williams guided the discussions skilfully so that everyone was given time to talk.”
Building relationships
“The Roundtable was an excellent opportunity to interact with ambitious businesses based in the North East,” says Jonathan. “It meant Santander could ask attendees what they want from a bank and how we can support them in their growth agenda. It opened the floodgates to a really productive discussion.”
A range of business sectors was represented, including social enterprise, manufacturing, technology, knowledge transfer and coaching, conferences and legal advice. Despite their diversity, common themes emerged: how to work with banks to establish business goals; how to access a bank’s network to make relevant business contacts; and the value of exports versus establishing a strong local market for goods and services.
“What came across really strongly is that as a bank, we have to understand individual needs,” says Jonathan. “Those attendees that already bank with Santander told us how much they value their Relationship Directors as a source of perspective and solutions – they really understand the businesses they work with.”
Local business, local banking
Santander has just opened its first branch in Huddersfield and on the day of the event, Steve Pateman also gave a talk at Huddersfield University. In addition, Santander is investing £30,000 of Breakthrough Growth Capital in the 3M Innovation Centre, which hosted the Roundtable – an incredible hub of technology and expertise. Of that funding, £20,000 – matched by a further £20,000 from Huddersfield University – will fund an innovation scheme whereby local businesses can apply for vouchers that provide time with experts, such as materials scientists, to help them develop their products and drive growth.

“The attendees were dynamic owners running fast-paced businesses and they all had something valuable to contribute.” Jonathan Rostron, Santander Business Development Director, North East

“One of the attendees toured the centre when the Roundtable was finished and is already in talks about how they might work together to manufacture new products,” says Jonathan. “She was amazed by the enthusiasm of Santander and the 3M Innovation Centre in finding solutions for the businesses we work with.” 
Challenging perspectives
Santander has been hosting SME Roundtable events since 2013 because they offer such value and insight to the SMEs involved. “We invite strivers who have an opinion and won’t just accept the status quo,” Jonathan explains. “They’re not afraid to question the other attendees and that can be really powerful. After all, these are successful business owners who have earned their stripes. It’s a credible challenge based on direct experience.”
The diversity of the businesses involved is another great bonus. “Business owners tend to operate within one sector. When they come to an event like this, they see the range of businesses we champion, which opens their eyes to the depth of our expertise. Santander operates on a relationship model to support businesses; for us, banking is about more than simply being a supplier of cash,” says Jonathan.
Full representation
Attendees also appreciated the input of the Santander representatives – from the Relationship and Business Development Directors working on a day-to-day basis in the region, to experts in Growth Capital and the Director of Santander Universities UK. “We were able to give a real insight into Santander’s proposition as a Corporate and Commercial bank,” says Jonathan.
“One attendee commented on how great it was to see figures from head office so aligned with those operating locally. She felt that the customer experience and our corporate identity is completely in sync, with Breakthrough and Santander demonstrating a can-do, innovative attitude and supporting businesses that share those qualities.”
Santander will continue to offer SME Roundtable events to connect ambitious businesses, share expertise and learn how we can support them even further. To find out more, please contact your local Relationship Director.

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