Banks are ready and willing to lend to businesses with clear strategies and strong management, says Guy Reeves

The economic events of the past two years have had a huge impact on financial markets. Everything from commodity prices to house prices has been affected. But finally there are signs of a recovery and areas of growth in UK industry.

The food and drink sector, like most, has seen tough trading conditions. However, many of our business customers have continued to take advantage of opportunities to expand or begin new ventures.

Food and drink companies led by strong and experienced management teams have coped best. They have planned ahead for different contingencies and maintained open and frank conversations with key stakeholders.

They have looked closely at their business plans and calculated the likely effect of the downturn on sales to position themselves effectively within the ­market.

In response to businesses asking how they can get access to funding, I would say that a number of well-established banks, including Lloyds TSB, are still willing to lend and provide the support they need.

But banks are keen to see clear strategic direction from companies with strong teams and a prudent business plan that includes management of costs and working capital.

It is essential for your bank to fully understand your business, your goals and the issues and challenges you face, so it can provide the guidance, support and financial solutions you require. Use your banker as part of your team.

We expect the economy to continue stabilising in 2010, supported by interest rates that are forecast to remain low throughout the year. We do expect to see growth in the UK economy, albeit in moderation. The ­latest TSB Corporate Markets Business Barometer shows faith in trading prospects was higher last month than at any point since April last year.

Although 2010 will continue to present challenges, with commitment, planning and the stability of a strong business team, many businesses are in a good position to tackle them. In my view, the sector should approach the new year with a sense of cautious optimism.

Guy Reeves is a relationship director at Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets.

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