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A view from the field

Six months in to his role as Consultant in the Midlands, we caught up with Paul Simon to find out what he has been doing, and to ask his views on the farm mortgage market and his new role.

What has been your impressions of the agricultural finance market in your first six months with R&BS?

I’ve mainly been working on land purchase cases. With the rise in the costs of borrowing and the cost of living, it has become more difficult for people looking to expand or diversify their rural business, but it is encouraging that people are seeing a future purpose and wanting to acquire land. 

We continue to receive enquiries for other loan purposes too. I manned the North phone line for a couple for a week or so, and it was interesting to hear the types of enquiries. Some are from new starters who need more guidance on putting their requirements into a viable lending proposition, and others are from established farm or rural businesses with a strong proposition, but they’ve lost or don’t know where to find the expertise to help them with their plans or finance requirements.

For example, I had an existing farmer call me. They wanted to buy another dream farm for around £4 million but they literally had no idea who to speak to or how to progress their finance requirements, so they called R&BS.

Why didn’t they call their bank manager?

You’d have thought that wouldn’t you! When I first started working in agricultural banking, bank managers were the go-to person for advice. All your clients knew who you were and how to contact you. But most banks then moved to sorting clients by turnover and redirecting them to be managed by call centres in a way to cut staff costs.

So now, when a farmer sees a farm or a plot of land they want to buy, or they want to invest in a diversification enterprise, most can’t just walk into their local branch or call their bank manager. Farmers don’t know who to talk to guide them and put them on the right track anymore. That's why the banks are now relying on companies like R&BS to feed them new business.

What did you learn from the first proposal you submitted to lenders?

It was an eye opener in terms of the way different banks’ credit assessment work. I was obviously used to just one way of working within Lloyds Bank, so perhaps blinkered. Within some banks, Lloyds included, they have different appetites and different credit policies and underwriters for different sizes of business. So, with each proposal, you must position the case a bit differently depending on the department, let alone the bank, that you are submitting an application too. Some lenders, however, make it much easier to apply.

What else have you been up to?

I attended to Farm Business Innovation at the NEC in November, where R&BS had a tradestand. Business was brisk as it’s an event where people are looking for ideas or they got an idea of what they want to do, and so come to us looking to finance to progress their ideas. I've got several promising leads from businesses that are waiting for planning permission or will start their projects in 2024.

I also called in to the Dairy Show at Telford too, which was a good event. I mainly met with the banks there either introducing myself to people I’d spoken to on the phone or making new contacts.

I’m contacting local rural professional advisors such as land agents, consultants, accountants and solicitors too. I spoke to a local accountant last week, and we discussed a potential deal and how to position it to lenders. I hope to go out to the local livestock markets in the New Year to meet prospective clients and other professional contacts.

And of course, I’ve been out meeting with lenders from national direct or broker teams, down to local bank managers in the Midlands. The more cases I submit, the better new contacts I am making within the lenders.

What have you enjoyed most about your role?

Farming isn’t just a business – it’s a whole way of life, for often more than one family generation. So, the right loan facilities and terms that help clients achieve both their business and lifestyle goals is important. It’s been fantastically satisfying to help my clients navigate the mortgage minefield and achieve successful completions that really sets them and their families up for a secure, profitable and fulfilling future.

About Paul

Paul is a well-known figure amongst farmers and rural professionals in Shropshire and the Midlands, having spent the last 16 years working as an agricultural relationship manager for Lloyds Bank working from Uttoxeter. With a banking career that spans nearly 40 years, Paul has worked closely with many farms, rural and commercial businesses and not continues to do so offering independent guidance with R&BS.

Paul welcomes contact from old and new clients and professional contacts and can be reached 07763 225490 or email  paul@randbs.co.uk