April 1991 was when I started out as a commercial finance broker.  My first ever completion was a shop in Ashbourne financed by Royal Bank of Scotland, a bank with a lovely culture in those days.  What was unusual is that most of my colleagues did not use high street clearing banks then: the favourites were finance houses, Allied Irish Finance, Barclays Mercantile, First National Bank and Woodchester…………remember them?

In those days the high street clearing bank manager and the centralised lending manager made decisions; there was no ivory tower and no credit committee.  Lenders judged borrowers; there were few no go areas for lending, no taboo areas as there are today with the licensed trade, start-ups, small property developments and small commercial investment property.

Twenty five years ago the small and micro business were far better supplied with finance than they are today.  Generally speaking high street bank managers now have too much to do to consider anything other than straightforward propositions and head office policies reinforce this lack of flexibility.  There are very few challenger banks lending on commercial property and their rules are often watered down versions of the clearers’.  Peer to peer borrowing is rarely an answer since most want to lend only to established businesses.

Of course, over the last quarter of the century there have been peaks and troughs of lending but usually there have been at least a couple of lenders keen on dealing with small owner managed businesses and there modest borrowing requirements.  Now I don’t see it, we have to work very hard to persuade one to help.  Interestingly, there are more long-in-the-tooth entrepreneurs who remember how banks used to work than there are bank managers, who get ever younger.  Ah no, nostalgia isn’t what it used to be.