Guy Opperman hosts meeting on regional banking

THE Treasury will today set out its support for regional banking as the industry gathers on Tyneside.

THE Treasury will today set out its support for regional banking as the industry gathers on Tyneside.

Experts from the world of finance and banking will be at Baltic in Gateshead to hear how regional banks could prevent banking continuing to be concentrated in the hands of a small number of players.

Hexham MP Guy Opperman has helped bring in key figures from the UK and Europe to go over how the North East can benefit from the changes.

Among those he has brought to the event is former Gosforth Grammar School pupil Anthony Thomson, named as one of the City’s most influential operators after helping set up Metro Bank, a new customer friendly bank opening branches across London.

Mr Thomson said he could see anywhere between five and 15 new banks opening in the next three to five years.

He added: “I think you look at the North East now and you see what is obvious in many other parts of the country, that we have a two-speed economy between London and the rest.

“But people and businesses in the region have a right to demand better local banking.

“Years ago you would have the larger banks doing a very good job of that, with local managers who knew the area, but that isn’t there anymore.”

Mr Thomson said that from his personal experience it was “very, very difficult” to open a new bank, but that work was ongoing to reduce some of the hurdles holding back would -be entrants.

Also attending the event is Jeremy Middleton, who owns finance company Middleton Enterprises. He said a shortage of funding was holding back the region.

Mr Middleton, who chairs the investment panel at the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “Clearly we need more banks, we need new entrants to the market and it would be great to get a new bank in the region.

“The national message to lend more is good but will not address the problem that specifically we don’t have enough local credit assessments.

“If you look at Handelsbanken, based in Sunderland, it is bringing back traditional banking, letting local bankers make a decision about the firms they meet. We need more of that.

“We need to be careful though that legislation and red tape do not put off new entrants.

“It’s a daunting thing to start a bank, all we can do as a local enterprise partnership and business community is to encourage them to come here as there is demand.”

Conservative MP Mr Opperman has long called for Government to help create the right conditions for regional banking to succeed.

Writing for The Journal today, he says that we “need a culture change in banking”.

He adds: “I am looking forward to seeing, in the not too distant future, local banks in our local towns, whether they are my home town of Hexham, or regional areas like Tyne and Wear, or the wider North East as a whole. “

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