Bank that backs the bakers of the fine flour of Scotland

Clydesdale Bank has re­newed its industry partner­ship with Scotland Food and Drink, underlining the strong historic links that have helped to drive innovation and growth in this flourishing sector. This strategic partnership was first established in 2013 to allow both organi­sations to collaborate on supporting food and drink businesses, with the new agree­ment now building on the success of the past two years.

In essence, though, Clydesdale Bank has been an unofficial partner of the sector for many decades, building relationships with food and drink businesses, many of which are family-run, as they prosper and grow. It might be lending support for a new pro-duct, introducing new technology, de­veloping new techniques or investing in workforce skills and expertise.

As one of Scotland’s key growth sec­tors, worth more than £13 billion to the Scottish economy and looking to expand further, food and drink aligns well with Clydesdale Bank’s objectives according to Alastair Christmas, the Clydesdale’s regional director for business and private banking. He says that by working closely with industry body Scotland Food and Drink, the bank has further strengthened its knowledge of the sector, and that great­er understanding of the opportunities and challenges it faces makes the bank better placed to help businesses in the sector real­ise their growth ambitions.

“Clydesdale Bank has a broad exposure to farming and fishing,” Mr Christmas says, “with a significant part of our cus­tomer base from the food and drink supply chain, from agriculture to consumer, pass­ing through traders and retailers.

“We have a deep and long-standing relationship with the agricultural com­munity, and we have significant expertise within that area through our local centres. Elsewhere, food and drink firms continue to innovate utilising new technology or developing new techniques, while custom­ers can also be looking for lending support for new stock, product lines, or for creating new jobs.

Mr Christmas notes Clydesdale Bank’s connections with specific parts of the food business. “We are big supporters of pelagic fishing,” he says, “and with improvements in the white fish industry new boats are be­ing built, and others extended, and we are helping businesses in the North East and in Shetland.

“We also have a strategic partnership with Scottish Bakers, and punch well above our weight in terms of supporting these businesses. We were delighted to see McGhee’s of Glasgow recently win Scot­tish Baker of the Year, as this is a business we have been involved with over a number of years. Then there is Border Biscuits in Lanark, a forward-thinking company who since moving to Clydesdale Bank have ex­tended the factory by creating a new ware­house and have ambitious plans to add an­other new automated line to help grow the business further.

“With our support, through a £10 mil­lion funding package, Carr’s Group plc has opened a new state-of-the-art £17m flour mill in Kirkcaldy, the first to be built in Scotland in 25 years. We have also sup­ported Brownings the Bakers of Kilmar­nock, who have been our customers for 75 years, with a major expansion of their premises.”

Clydesdale Bank has also supported successful drinks firms, such as Glasgow-based Speyside Distillers and the Stirling-headquartered Isle of Arran Distillers. “When you step aside from the interna­tional drinks firms,” Mr Christmas says, “there are a number of smaller whisky businesses that are operating with a global footprint, such as Speyside, where a fund­ing package of £4.3m is helping to drive their international expansion.

“This included appointing football leg­end Michael Owen as a global brand am­bassador, with the former Liverpool and Manchester United striker still having a huge following in China, a target market for Speyside Distillers. With Isle of Arran Distillers, a £3m package helped the busi­ness to expand its workforce and open a new warehouse as they increase production at the acclaimed distillery on the island.”

Clydesdale Bank’s relationship-based approach can be particularly helpful for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) which dominate Scotland’s food and drink sector, allowing the bank to work closely with businesses that can have a complex range of requirements. Alastair Christmas explains that the partnership also allows the bank to look for opportuni­ties where it can further support and grow that knowledge.

“SMEs, many of them family-run, clear­ly constitute a big part of Scotland’s busi­ness community,” he says, “and the food and drink element sits firmly within that. We operate locally, and have industry-ac­knowledged specialists who may focus on agriculture, say, or fishing. In Glasgow, for instance, we have an experienced relation­ship manager who specialises in the whisky industry. We align our people with specific areas, and they build their knowledge and understanding of that sector.

“A lot of businesses in the food and drink sector are the fourth or fifth generation of a family, with a long history of family tradition, and they take exceptional pride in taking their business forward. Many of them, such as Brownings, have a real awareness of their part in a legacy. They take pride in making sure the business is sustainable, longevity is important, as is retaining and supporting their employees. You see this a lot with rural businesses and farmers – they see themselves as custodians for future generations.

“This leads to innovation and forward thinking, and we’re involved in that pro­cess, supporting them not just through funding but with our understanding of their core business and aspirations. Our size gives us flexibility, and the opportunity to spend time with these clients that they might not get elsewhere. Long-term rela­tionships are important and are as critical for us as they are for our customers.”